The countdown is on for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, which will be the first time the tournament is played in the Middle East.
Initially, a blockade imposed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbours delayed some construction material getting into Qatar.
But organisers now say all eight stadiums are on schedule – with several expected to be ready two years before the World Cup kicks off
Qatar’s leaders and World Cup organisers are still hoping football can bring the region closer together.
Al Jazeera’s Joanna Gasiorowska went to see how preparations are going.
Following a successful World Cup 2018 in Russia, and one of the most exciting finals in recent history, the focus has now shifted to Qatar which will become the first country in the Middle East to host football’s biggest tournament in 2022.
Qatar, with a population of just over 2.3 million, has never taken part in a World Cup and the temperature is so high during the customary mid-year window, the tournament has moved towards the end of the year.
On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putinhanded over the mantle of World Cup host to the emir of Qatar in a ceremony that marked a handover from the world’s largest country by landmass to one of the smallest.
“Russia is handing over the relay baton for hosting the FIFA World Cup to Qatar,” said Putin as he handed the official ball to FIFA President Gianni Infantino before it was passed onto Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
“I’m sure that our friends from Qatar will be able to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup on the same high level. We are, of course, ready to share the experience we acquired in holding the World Cup this year, along with our friends.”
The Qatari emir said his country would apply all its efforts to make the next event a success.
“We hope to overcome all the difficulties,” said the emir. “Although it will be hard to repeat that success [on the field] as we’re a small country, but we are very keen on sport.”
Qatar’s determination to make sure World Cup 2022 is a success comes in the middle of a land, sea and air blockade imposed on it by some of it its Gulf neighbours.
That initially prevented some construction material from getting into the country but organisers confirmed that all eight stadiums are on schedule, with several expected to be ready two years before the World Cup kicks off.
“It (the blockade) hasn’t affected construction on the site. There were materials originally sourced from the blockading countries. However, they are not the only sources of material in the world,” Tamim el-Abed, Lusail Stadium project manager, told Al Jazeera.
|Lusail Stadium will host the World Cup 2022 final [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]|
“There are plenty of other alternatives and we quickly diverted our sourcing to other places in the world and other shipping routes and got things back on track instantly.”
As part of it’s winning bid in 2010, Qatar promised to take apart many of the stadiums at the end of the World Cup and send sections to developing countries to help them grow the game.
“We are ready based on the path we have set,” said Hassan al-Thawadi, the secretary-general of the Qatar 2022 organising committee, in Moscow with a delegation of 180 officials shadowing their Russian counterparts in 11 cities.
FIFA confirmed that the tournament will be hosted from November 21 with the final taking place on December 18, Qatar’s national day.
With additional reporting by Joanna Gasiorowska in Doha, Qatar