With Qatar being treated to 24 days of fantastic football between the ongoing 24th Arabian Gulf Cup and the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup, the hosts are considering it as a dress rehearsal for the football extravaganza that will be the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
And what’s heartening for the organisers is the encouraging feedback they are getting from the various delegations in Doha for the Gulf Cup, partners and FIFA among others.
“In terms of organisation we are very happy with the level of co-ordination between ourselves, Traffic Police, the security apparatus, whether it is the Ministry of Interior… We have been seeing from the opening match onwards that there has been an increase in efficiency, which is normal in every mega event,” said Nasser al-Khater, the Chief of Experience and Tournament Readiness at Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC).
“The opening match is always the most challenging one. We have not had any complaints from any of the teams and delegations that we have here. We think overall the organisation has been a success. We have three more matches to go…”
According to al-Khater, all aspects of the organisation from ticket sales to transport infrastructure have thrown up good numbers.
As many as 150,000 tickets were sold during the group stages, which represented around 69.2 percent of the total tickets that were available. “And that’s a very good number,” al-Khater said.
With the Gold Line on Doha Metro starting in time for the Gulf Cup and the FIFA World Cup, it has made commuting to and from the venues, especially the Khalifa International Stadium, much easier for the fans.
“The Metro has been very successful. The opening match we had 9,000 passengers. For the match on Tuesday between Qatar and the UAE - we had 14,000 passengers. These are good numbers for us,” al-Khater said.
Three days after the Gulf Cup concludes on Sunday, the FIFA Club World Cup will kick-off at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha with Qatari champions Al Sadd taking on New Caledonian club Hienghene Sport, winners of this year’s Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Champions League, on Wednesday.
“For us, we are not looking at these tournaments as two tournaments back-to-back,” al-Khater said.
“We have the Gulf Cup, which started on (November) 26 and will run till (December) 8, and then we have the Club World Cup, which will start on (December) 11 and run till (December) 21. That’s almost the length of the World Cup in 2022,” the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 CEO added.
“For us it’s good. The venue teams are the same, the planning stage was one. So we are looking at them as one tournament with three days in between.”
Talking about the co-operation with FIFA, he said, “Our work with FIFA continues. We have them on the ground. They have been involved with us in the Gulf Cup, their people are on the venues with us. The feedback has been good. We have debriefs every day, we talk about lessons learnt every day. So it is a good working relationship.”
With some big numbers coming into the venues for the Gulf Cup matches and more expected during the Club World Cup, it is a good test for the security apparatus in place and al-Khater reposed confidence in the crowd control measures.
“There is definitely very, very good crowd control organisation, in terms of efficiency, people entering the stadiums through the security gates… some matches were a little more challenging just because they were bigger matches. But they were all important steps towards organising a successful World Cup. So all in all we are very satisfied with all the measures, and all the organisational part of the tournament.”
The organisers have also ensured that the fans have a good time besides the football action on the field.
“We are working together with Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC), Qatar Airways, Katara - the Cultural Village and the Ministry of Sports and Culture. There is a fully integrated plan for fans that will be attending the Club World Cup. It’s similar to we are doing for the Gulf Cup. There are a lot of activities and events happening in Katara, in Souq Waqif. And for the Club World Cup too we will have these cultural and traditional activities and events. But we will also make sure that we have something for all the fans that will be attending,” said al-Khater, who also added that the ticket sales for the Club World are “going very very well”.
Rush for tickets
A large number of people queued up at the outlets selling tickets for the two semi-finals of the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup after sales began at 4pm on Tuesday. There was a major rush online as well (http://gulfcup2019.qa).
A total of 25,000 tickets for the two semifinals had been sold until late last evening, the Qatar Football Association (QFA) said in a tweet. Of these, 17,000 were sold online and 8,000 at the ticket counters.
Earlier in the day, QFA announced that the ticket sales would begin at 4pm both online and at Villaggio, Doha Festival City, Mall of Qatar and Katara - the Cultural Village. Serpentine queues were reported from some of these places as football enthusiasts turned up in large numbers to buy tickets for the semifinals on Thursday. The QFA also tweeted that "due to the huge demand, you may experience a longer wait to enter the website". Qatar will play against Saudi Arabia at Al Janoub Stadium, while Iraq will take on Bahrain at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium (Duhail) in the semifinals.
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