FIFA President Gianni Infantino has praised Qatar’s infrastructure progress on a whirlwind tour of the host stadia in the Middle Eastern state.
Infantino described the 2022 FIFA World Cup as a unique opportunity for football fans to experience a new culture and region during a whistle-stop tour of the country.
Infantino visited Al Wakrah Stadium before taking a helicopter ride to view the other seven proposed tournament venues and several training sites.
He arrived in Al Wakrah after becoming one of the first people to travel on the new Doha Metro, which will open to the public by the end of the year.
He travelled from Doha Exhibition & Convention Centre in West Bay to Al Wakrah, a journey south which took approximately 20 minutes.
During an interview at Al Wakrah Stadium, a 40,000 capacity venue which will host matches up to the quarter-finals stage in 2022, Infantino said:
The stadium here is very impressive. When you enter here you can immediately feel how imposing it is, and you can see the progress which is being made here four years before kick-off.
Infantino said Qatar’s tournament had massive potential to break down cultural stereotypes and bring people together through football. He added:
I think this World Cup is extremely important, not only for Qatar but for the whole region – a region that has a passion for football and is investing a lot in the game.
This World Cup is a unique opportunity – a chance to show the world what this region can offer; for football, but also for anybody in the world to come and visit a beautiful place, learn about a new culture and meet new people.
In this world, especially in the current climate, it is very much needed that we open our doors and discover new places.
The recent World Cup in Russia set a high benchmark, said Infantino, who is expecting fans to receive a warm welcome in Qatar in 2022. He said:
There are many lessons we can learn from Russia. The first one is how to welcome so many people – 1.5 million people came to Russia to enjoy the World Cup and they were all welcomed in a way that was unexpected to many. There were many fears about Russia, but it turned out to be a very safe World Cup, a very welcoming World Cup, in a country that made fans feel good.
The whole population contributed to that and I’m sure the same will happen here in Qatar. The Russian World Cup was the best ever, and the World Cup in 2022 has to be even better.
Qatar launched its first tournament-ready venue, Khalifa International Stadium, in May 2017 – more than five years before kick off on 21 November 2022. The other venues, including the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium, which will host the opening match and final in 2022, will all be completed by 2020.