“It’s actually 363 days, 21 hours and 49 minutes to go,” said Fifa president Gianni Infantino yesterday as he began his monologue of praise towards next year’s World Cup hosts Qatar.
“One year before kick off, all venues are ready. Some other host countries, many years after the event has taken place, have stadiums that are still not ready.”
Infantino was speaking alongside His Excellency Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and Machaille Al Naimi, community development presidents for hosts the Qatar Foundation.
The controversial World Cup is officially less than a year away. A total of 32 countries competing across just shy of a month for the gold, somewhat crass, trophy.
“Imagine here [Qatar] one year before [the tournament] the stadiums are ready,” Infantino continued. “The stadium for the final is incredibly beautiful, it’s amazing. Everything is ready so we can focus on every fan having an incredible experience.”
Qatar’s winning bid was shrouded in controversy, and ex-Fifa members have previously gone on record calling the decision as a “mistake”.
But the decision has been made and the stadiums built, and Qatar knows the power a World Cup can bring in terms of influence, national recognition and exposure.
“When you look at major sporting events, the biggest beneficiary, apart from construction, is tourism and culture. You’ve seen that in Sydney, South Africa and, in particular, Russia,” said Hassan Al Thawadi.
“One of the most driving passions we had was that this was a sport that brings everyone together, but more importantly it’s a platform that if you go any corner of the world people love the sport.
“People communicate through names like Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and so on. It has an unprecedented ability to bring people together.”
The hosting committee are determined to paint the World Cup as an opportunity for the future.
“We play a unique role in supporting the World Cup,” said Machaille Al Naimi. “That has been from sustainability, research and community development, all of which are core mission areas as a foundation. I see our role as two fold, one is supporting the Supreme Committee in achieving their objectives, and also leveraging the ecosystem we have.”
Qatar are likely to host a World Cup like no other, and the reasons as to why are commercial and societal. But when 21 November rolls around next year and fans all over succumb to football fever, the reality is that it’s just another football tournament everyone wants to win.