x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Qatar's Emir thanks Fifa for 'believing in change'

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, thanked football's ruling body after his country became the first in the Arab World to be given the right to host a World Cup.

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, last night thanked Fifa, football's ruling body, for "believing in change" after his country became the first in the Arab World to be given the right to host a World Cup.

Thousands of Qataris and expatriates immediately started dancing in the streets along Doha's Gulf waterfront on hearing the news that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup.

Some blew the vuvuzelas that became synonymous with the World Cup in South Africa.

"Thank you for believing in change, thank you for believing in expanding the game, thank you for giving Qatar a chance," said Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar's bid chairman. "We will not let you down. You will be proud of us, you will be proud of the Middle East and I promise you this."

With a population of just 841,000 people, Qatar will become the smallest nation to host the world's single biggest sporting event.

"By hosting the World Cup Qatar will honour all Arabs," said Ashraf Jaber, a 34-year-old Egyptian who lives and works in Doha and who was among the crowds celebrating.

While Qatar celebrated, Russia's leaders triumphantly greeted the news that their country had won the right to host the event in 2018.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who had complained of "unscrupulous competition" in the contest, said he was leaving Moscow immediately to fly to Fifa headquarters in Zurich to thank the soccer governing body.

"I would like to thank the members of the Fifa executive committee for their decision, that they trusted us with staging the football World Cup," Mr Putin said in televised remarks.

"Hooray! Victory!" President Dmitry Medvedev said on Twitter just minutes after Russia's bid was declared the winner.

"Now we need to prepare properly to host the World Cup and of course to play well," Mr Medvedev said, echoing a wave of positive messages across the Russian internet.

* With additional reporting by David Sapsted in London and Omar Karmi in Washington