Slavisa Jokanovic, the new coach of Qatar Stars League (QSL) team Al Gharafa, believes the FIFA World Cup 2022 is helping to transform the host nation.
The former Serbia midfielder, who began his managerial career with Partizan Belgrade in 2007, recently toured the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s Legacy Pavilion and visited Al Janoub Stadium to learn more about the ongoing plans for the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East.
Jokanovic praised Qatar’s preparations for the tournament, highlighting the dramatic development the country has undergone since winning the rights to host the event in 2010.
“I’ve witnessed first-hand the change Qatar is undergoing to host the World Cup since breaking ground on various infrastructure and stadium projects which are progressing at a fast pace.”
The 51-year-old added: “I believe in another two to three years, when all construction projects are completed, the world will witness the birth of a brand-new country.”
The former midfielder, who earned 64 caps during his international career, represented Yugoslavia at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2000.
Prior to taking over at Al Gharafa, Jokanovic coached Thailand’s Muangthong United, Bulgarian side Levski Sofia, La Liga’s Hércules and English team Watford. Jokanović, who spent two seasons with English giants Chelsea, was impressed by Al Janoub Stadium’s state-of-the-art features and modern technology.
“I was blown away the moment we arrived at the stadium. It was incredible, the temperature inside the stadium was a cool 21 degrees – the optimum temperature to play football – while just outside it was still hot.”
“No doubt, the cooling technology at the stadium will allow Qatar to benefit from this sporting infrastructure all-year-round no matter the weather,” he added.
As for Qatar 2022, Jokanović also praised the compact nature of the tournament, highlighting its benefits to both players and fans, who will be able to attend more than one match a day during the early stages of the event.
Jokanovic said: “The players and fans are going to enjoy a unique and incredible experience. The tournament’s compact nature will eliminate the time and effort needed to commute between stadiums, training camps and accommodation sites. And for the first time in World Cup history, competing teams will have the same accommodation throughout the tournament. This means players can spend more time on training rather than travelling.”
“Having participated in two major tournaments, I understand the struggle that comes with travelling from one place to the other and how that can affect a player’s mental and physical strength,” he added.
In the meantime, Jokanović is committed to Al Gharafa and has overseen a strong start to his tenure with the Cheetahs, who currently sit joint top of the league on ten points.
He said: “Right now is not the time to think about winning titles, but about working step-by-step with the team. We are getting ready for what’s ahead and looking forward to the challenge.”
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