Qatar’s iconic Khalifa International Stadium will host the Emir Cup football final between Al Rayyan and Al Sadd on May 19 marking a momentous occasion in the country’s rapid progress leading up to the FIFA World Cup in 2022. It will also host the opening match and final of the Gulf Cup in December.
“We are happy that the Khalifa International Stadium will again host football matches in Qatar. The stadium has been witness to the most prominent sporting achievements of Qatar and is a venue that is closest to Qatari hearts,” Qatar Football Association President Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani said on Sunday.
The stadium has played host to several Emir Cup and Heir Apparent Cup finals in the past and was also the main arena used during the 2006 Asian Games and the Asian Cup football tournament in 2011 before it was earmarked as a World Cup stadium and redeveloped by the Aspire Zone Foundation.
Built in 1976, the stadium earlier underwent massive renovation for the Asian Games but FIFA’s exacting standards for World Cup host venues meant it had to be dismantled and totally redeveloped.
It now boasts an ultra-modern shape with dual arches that represent continuity and embracing fans from all over the globe. Inside the stadium, all seating areas will be protected from the elements by a canopy, with further climate control delivered by advanced cooling technologies. It also boasts several hospitality and VIP suites.
Last month Aspire Zone Foundation (AZF) and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) set a new world record for by re-turfing the Khalifa International Stadium in just 13-and-a-half hours.
The new world record smashed AZF’s previous best which it set when it re-turfed the Al Sadd Sports Club stadium in 14 hours and 40 minutes.
Located at the centre of all the 2022 venues, it will play a pivotal role in the World Cup and is scheduled to host a few matches up to the quarter-final stage of the tournament. It will have a capacity to seat 40,000 spectators and is one of at least eight venues that will be used for the FIFA World Cup.
In an interview in December last year, Supreme Committee chief Hassan al-Thawadi had stated that hosting the Emir Cup at the Khalifa International Stadium was a priority for Qatar.
“The eight stadiums will be in different stages of construction, and we’re also aiming for the first stadium, Khalifa International Stadium, to be delivered within 2017 to host the Emir Cup final. So you’ll find significant construction going on next year,” al-Thawadi had said.
The Al Wakrah and Al Khor stadiums are expected to be up and ready for action by the end of 2018 followed by the Al Rayyan and Qatar Foundations arenas in 2019. Other venues will be completed by 2021 with Qatar eager to get all facilities ready much ahead of the mega event.
The Khalifa International Stadium is part of the sprawling Aspire Zone complex which hosts several world class facilities such as the globally renowned Aspire Academy and Aspetar sports medicine hospital.
By Anil John
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2021