KUALA LUMPUR: It’s football mania time. Manchester City won the Premiership, Atletico Madrid finished La Liga and Inter Milan are Serie A champions.
The European king of clubs will be decided when City meet Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29 in Portugal.
And then the biggies: Euro 2020 will be hosted by 11 countries from June 12 with the final at Wembley Stadium in London on July 12, and the Copa America in Argentina with its final on July 10.
But all of this will lack one main ingredient – the presence of the fans. The number of supporters will be limited and with the SOPs the celebrations will be stifled.
Football’s real comeback will likely only come after global vaccinations by the middle of next year – when the biggest sporting spectacle returns to Asia at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
And in the new normal, Qatar promises a lot of new records.
It will be the first World Cup to be held in November-December, it will be the first to be held in the Middle East, and it will be the first to have all eight stadiums within striking distance of each other, no more than 25 km. Far from each other.
Football fans can hop on a metro at any stadium after a match and be at the next stadium within minutes for another, said Qatar’s Ambassador to Malaysia Fahad bin Mohammed Kafood.
The stadiums themselves promise to be amazing.
Malaysians now have the chance to see these stadiums at the 2022 World Cup exhibit at the Pavilion Mall in Kuala Lumpur. The exhibition will run until June 30.
The stadiums are really fancy. The iconic Lusail stadium is not only pretty, but also has solar panels, which not only allows it to fuel itself but also to generate energy for the town of Lusail that grows around it.
The Al Bayt stadium looks like a Bedouin tent and the Education City Stadium is on the way to becoming an educational city after the World Cup, with schools and kindergartens covering an area of 12 km2.
Then there is the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium waterfront with a lake around it in Doha – an “IKEA stadium”, of sorts. It is 100% prefabricated, brought from China in shipping containers and secured together like an IKEA cabinet. Even the containers were used as part of the building!
After the World Cup, it will be completely dismantled and moved elsewhere, perhaps to Africa to help the poor there, Fahad says.
He said more than $ 10 billion (RM 40 billion) had been spent on the construction and renovation of the eight stadiums.
They will be much more than just football arenas. Not only will fans be seated in air-conditioned comfort, but players will also play in air-conditioned arenas whose roofs can be closed to keep the fresh air inside, he says.
Al Bayt Stadium, for its part, will have luxurious suites where visitors can stay for the duration of the World Cup and step out on their balconies to watch the matches!
Can there be a better way to soak up the atmosphere of the World Cup?
Ambassador Fahad said six stadiums were ready while two more were almost ready.
“However, all the infrastructure, hotels, logistics and metro trains are operational,” he said when FMT visited the exhibition.
The Qatari soccer team is also set, with 22-year-old Al Saad striker Akram Alif winning the Asian Player of the Year award for 2019, Qatar’s second consecutive winner after his team-mate in Abdelkarim Hassan club. There was no price for 2020.
So come to Qatar for the best football in the world, says Ambassador Fahad. But first, he says, come to the Pavilion Mall for a taste of what to expect.