“Winter Qatar 2022 will see a great turnout” - Nasser Al Khater, deputy CEO, Qatar 2022 Local Organising Committee
As featured in The Edge April cover story, the 2022 World Cup dates were officially changed by FIFA in late March. Here we publish our full interview with Nasser Al Khater, executive director, communications and marketing for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and Deputy CEO of the Qatar 2022 Local Organising Committee, on how this has affected preparation for the event in the country.
With the rescheduling, is there no longer a necessity to provide air-conditioned stadia and fan-zones?
We are still moving forward with one of the most exciting legacy aspects of the tournament – cooling technology. Through the process of planning for the 2022 FIFA World Cup we are investing a lot in research and development of cooling technology in the hope that an efficient cooling system for stadiums and open public areas will help give Qatar and other countries with similar climates opportunities to host major sporting events year-round.
What efforts are being made to improve the Qatar national team before the tournament?
Qatar has a great football tradition, but is also taking major steps towards ensuring a competitive home team competes at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. We are proud of the work the QFA and our other football stakeholders in the country have invested in grassroots football, developing the best young talent Qatar has to offer. Our players are scattered all over Europe, gaining experience at a very high level and developing their talent. We enjoyed great success with our U-19 and U-20s recently and will continue to build on that. The Aspire Academy also features the best in Qatari talent and has already brought out many successful players.
What measures are being taken to ensure that the general public of Qatar will be excited by the prospect of the World Cup and will attend in great numbers?
I think that there will be a great turnout in 2022. Qatar, of course, is part of the Asian Football Confederation [and] we are expecting to see a good turnout from passionate Asian football fans in 2022. Qatar itself is country with a vibrant football fan base. When Qatar bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2010, thousands of fans gathered in public areas to watch the bid presentation, and when Sepp Blatter pulled Qatar’s name from the envelope, the city erupted in celebration. When we held the 1995 U-20 World Cup we enjoyed a record attendance throughout the tournament. In 2011, we boasted an average attendance of 12,000 fans for the Asian Cup, relative to a population at the time of 1.7million people. When Qatar won the 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations, fans took to the streets to celebrate their country’s victory. This is the biggest tournament in the world and we believe people will be excited to experience the tournament we will offer. We are ideally positioned to offer billions of people in every direction all over the world easy access to the greatest sports tournament in the world. There are 400 million people in the Arab World alone – a region that is crazy about football. People here are very excited about hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Nasser Al Khater, executive director, communications and marketing for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and Deputy CEO of the Qatar 2022 Local Organising Committee tells The Edge, “Qatar is a country with a vibrant football fan base.” (Image courtesy Qatar 2022)
Similarly, is it a concern of the Committee that less Westerners will attend the event due to its (likely) close proximity to Christmas?
The FIFA taskforce worked hard to find a date that would be most convenient for the teams and the fans, and we are certain that this decision will not impact attendance. Qatar’s location is convenient for football fans across the globe – it is just a four-hour flight for more than two billion people. The 2022 FIFA World Cup Final will take place on Qatar’s National Day on 18 December, leaving fans plenty of time to return home for holiday celebrations.
Only one of the recommendations made by DLA Piper in their report upon reformation of migrant worker conditions has been made thus far – do you know of any further plans to ratify some of the other recommendations made as it was recently announced there is no official timetable to do so?
The government has indicated very clearly that it intends to introduce reforms to improve the conditions of workers in Qatar. Some of the changes have already been put in place such as: the wage protection system; a 25 percent increase in labour inspectors; an increase in fines from USD 2,746 to USD 13,730 for employers who illegally hold employee passports per offence; multi-lingual electronic complaint kiosks through which workers can lodge complaints; and the construction of new housing facilities for expatriate workers. Others will take a bit more time because they have to go through the legislative process, which includes the involvement of several stakeholders in the country to ensure sustainable change.
How does Qatar intend to utilise the stadia once the world cup is completed?
While some of the stadiums—such as Khalifa International Stadium—will be used to host other major international sporting events, several of the stadiums will be used for domestic league matches, several proposed stadia will be built with demountable top-tiers. Qatar’s proposal is to donate these demountable seats to countries in need of sporting infrastructure. It has not yet been confirmed which countries will be the beneficiaries. The Local Organizing Committee, in consultation with FIFA and the continental football confederations, will decide this. Qatar believes this proposal will ensure that Qatar is left with stadia fit for purpose beyond 2022, while simultaneously leaving behind a significant legacy for international football development.
Of the stadia that is being erected for the 2022 World Cup, which is the one you are looking forward to visiting the most?
I am very excited about all of the stadiums, as each of them are unique in how they represent their communities and Qatar. But Lusail Stadium is probably the stadium that I most anticipate. As the proposed host venue for the FIFA World Cup Finals, it will be an iconic symbol of the first FIFA World Cup in the region – a place of great celebration for our country when the finals are played there on National Day.
Read the full article in the April 2015 edition of The Edge magazine here.