The one in Qatar will be the World Cup of slogans. Beyond the slogan of Fifa: “Now it's all”, some call it a “world of technology”. Others speak of the “Arab World Cup” or “the Middle East World Cup”. The organizers, on the other hand, prefer to baptize it as “the next World Cup”.
They are based on the distance between the furthest stadiums: 70 kilometers between Al-Khor, the northernmost of the eight, and Al-Janoub, the southernmost. And they add two other pieces of information: five of the eight venues are located within a radius of ten kilometers, while seven of the eight stadiums can be reached below ground, by metro. Next, a trip through the eight venues of Qatar 2022.
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Lusail, the jewel of the tournament
After landing at Hamad International Airport, and settling in the Qatar University bunker, the Argentine team will reconnoitre the playing field of the Lusail Stadium, the scene of the first match, against Saudi Arabia (and also the second, against Mexico). ). The Argentine debut will be on Tuesday, November 22 and it will be the only one of the seven first stage matches planned in that venue that will have sunlight. The initial whistle will be at 1:00 p.m. (local time, 7:00 a.m. in Argentina). Tranquility: The Qatari winter is mild, with temperatures averaging 25 degrees.
Lusail Stadium is the largest of the eight. It is the “Bird's Nest” of Beijing 2008, but in a Qatari version. Its facade appears on the 10 riyal bills, the emirate's currency. It has a maximum capacity of more than 80,000 seated spectators and during match days it is joined by some 15,000 people who work in the different operational areas. That is, more than 100 thousand souls in a sports venue. Almost the stable population of Tandil according to the 2010 census (116,916 inhabitants).
According to the World Cup organizers, its design “is inspired by the play of light and shadow that characterizes the fanar lantern (typical of this part of the world). Its shape and façade echo the intricate decorative motifs on bowls, vessels, and other pieces of art found throughout the Arab and Islamic world during the rise of civilization in the region.”
The iconic adjective fits perfectly this mass of cement and concrete on which more than 10,000 people have worked in the last four years: the work began in mid-2016 and was completed in December 2021. It is planned that before the World Cup “between two and three games” will be played with the public in the stands. Until now, internal systems, sound, and locker rooms have been tested behind closed doors.
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“The distance from row 1 to the field is practically zero. Stadiums of this size usually have a running track. And they are often used for athletics, for the Olympic Games and for soccer games. This is a pure football stadium, built from scratch. And only for soccer games. It is a spectacular experience to watch football. Especially when it's full,” says Tamim El Abed, the stadium's operations manager, who has overseen the construction site since day 1. El Abed was born in Palestine and immigrated with his family to Qatar 50 years ago. He now has to be responsible for the most emblematic construction of the first World Cup in the Arab world.
As soon as the bus that will transport the Argentine delegation plunges into the bowels of the stadium, the Argentine soccer players will see photos of tens of thousands of people, glued side by side at the entrance of official vehicles. “They are all those who worked in the construction”, informs El Abed to LA NACION. Until November 2016, when the first machine started working, this place was dirt and sand. In total, 100 hectares.
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“Part of our work as an organizing country is the legacy of the constructions. And not to do works that cannot be used after the tournament”, says El Abed, the manager of Lusail. “The plan is to give the land that is around the stadium after the tournament to developers, to make projects that are economically sustainable: retail, food and beverage, schools.” In this sense, and as Qatar 2022 boasts of being “the first sustainable World Cup” (yes, another slogan), the organizers advise that fans reach the stadiums by underground. In the case of Lusail, those who opt for this means of transportation will have an exclusive advantage: located in the southwest corner of the enclosure, the red line station will leave them just 600 meters from the entrance to the security zone. Those who come by car or taxi must park two kilometers from the stadium. And take one of the buses that will be on those beaches to get to the security control.
“People have started to realize the advantages of traveling by metro during an important match. We hope that the knowledge of this means of transport grows even more”, says El Abed. And he adds: “The more people we can encourage to use the subway, the easier the operation of the stadium will be. And the better the viewer experience.” Argentinians who attend will be struck by the number of four-story buildings in the surrounding area: Lusail is just beginning to be populated. And also the construction works. The place they will step on was no man's land until a decade ago. The stadium is the jewel of a tournament; the main attraction of an artificial city.
At Qatar 2022 there will be VIP spectators and also VVIPs. What does it mean? Simple: “Very Very Important People”. That is, “very, very important” people. They will have their access and will go up by elevator to the most luxurious part of the stadiums. Those “ultra-luxury” cabins in Lusail are like five-star hotel rooms, lobby included. Free meals and drinks, beds for two people, hostesses at your disposal and access to preferential seats in the stalls with unparalleled views of the pitch are some of the advantages of belonging to this select group.
974 Stadium, a Lego container
Located in the port of Doha , is the scene of the match against Poland, the last of the group stage of the Argentine team, which will be played on November 30. The albiceleste delegation will have to travel about 15 minutes by bus from the training center to this venue, unique in the history of the World Cups. The reason? Its primary structure is containers: 974 in total. Curiosities of the destination, that number is the international prefix of Qatar.
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Furthermore, it is the only removable stadium in the history of World Cups. The idea is to remove it from the place it occupies near the bay and take it to other places in the world where the ecumenical tournament takes place. That transplant will take about two years, much less time than it takes to build a stadium from scratch. The 974 StadiumIt is the only one of the eight World Cup venues that does not have continuous cooling, since being close to the coast, the sea air cools the environment.
In addition, it is zoned by colors: “Basically, the containers can be joined and stacked, like in a Lego,” architect Mark Fenwick, the brain behind the stadium, told LA NACION. And he added: “They are like a Lego building and then each color is a use. Everything is very easy, very simple. And the stadium, as you can see, is a sculpture, like a kind of shelf: we placed the containers like boxes, like pieces. And since they come completely prepared from the origin, from the factory, all you have to do is plug them in and they work”.
Thus, Argentines will have to be alert to the color code: the bathrooms are in yellow containers; the places where food is sold, in blue; the safety and first aid areas, in green; VIP tickets, VVIP and prayer rooms for men, in silver; prayer areas for women, in black. Six games of the group stage and one of the round of 16 will be played in that venue.
Al-Bayt, the most distant
The Al-Bayt stadium is in the city of Al-Khor, about 35 kilometers north of Doha. It is the furthest of the eight, and the only one that cannot be reached by subway: you have to take the bus. Reminder: all fans who go to see the World Cup will have free transportation with the Hayya Card, the Qatar 2022 Fan Id. The journey is by highway without toll and it takes 45 minutes to get there without problems. The first image upon arrival at this construction, which can hold around 60,000 spectators, is that of the typical Bedouin tents.
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Al-Janoub: the pearl
Al-Janoub Stadium is located in the city of Al-Wakrah< /b>, about 20 minutes south of Doha by highway. It boasts of being able to house one out of every two inhabitants of that urban center, one of the oldest in the country. If in the city there are about 85 thousand stable people, in Al-Janoub about 40 thousand can enter. Land of fishermen, “its design resembles the boat used by the locals to go into the sea in search of food and pearls”, according to official information from the World Cup organizers. It is accessed through the metro at Al Wakrah station.
On the day of its inauguration, in 2019 and on the occasion of the final of the Amir Cup (a kind of Argentine Cup), a ceremony paid tribute to that heritage of the city and the architect Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016. Considered one of the best in the world, her studio gave life to the structure of the Al-Janoub stadium.
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At Al-Janoub, whose VIP and VVIP cabins also look like five-star hotel rooms and are full of armchairs and rugs, Seven matches will be played: six in the group stage and one in the round of 16 of the World Cup.
Al-Thumama, or the exaltation of youth
Another of the stadiums with 40,000 spectators is Al-Thumama, 12 kilometers south of the center of Doha. Launched in 2021, it is the first to be seen from the air, as it is located in the approach area for planes preparing to land at Hamad International Airport.
According to the Supreme Committee for Qatar Legacy 2022, the stadium's circular shape reflects the gahfiya, a traditional knitted cap worn by men and boys throughout the Middle East for centuries. It is a beloved part of Arab family culture symbolizing dignity and independence, marking each child's path to adulthood.” This exaltation of the first years of life also symbolizes “Qatar's emergence as an important player on the world sports scene.”
To the Al-Thumama stadiumit can be accessed by subway (Free Zone station), and from there, a special bus for fans completes the path to the stadium, which takes about 15 minutes. You can also walk once you get off the subway. In that case, getting to the sports venue can take up to half an hour. Eight matches will be played in Al-Thumama, including the first of all (Senegal vs. Holland, on November 21 at 1 p.m. local time) and a quarterfinal.
Education City, innovation surrounded by green
Located 7 kilometers from downtown Doha, and on the way to Al-Rayyan stadium , the Education City stadiumIt is surrounded by universities and study centers. But, in addition, it even has its own golf course and numerous shops and businesses to spend the day. With a capacity of 40,000 spectators, it was the third of the stadiums built for Qatar 2022 to be ready: it was completed in June 2020.
It can be accessed via the metro (Education City station, green line) and the façade “features triangles that form complex geometric patterns, similar to diamonds, that appear to change color with the movement of the sun in the sky. At night, the structure presents a colorful light show, which makes it even more striking”, according to information provided by the organizers.
At first, this stadium would host the match between Argentina and Mexico, which later moved to its final venue, in Lusail. The Education City stadium will host eight World Cup matches, including a round of 16 and a quarter-final.
Ahmad Bin Ali, an oasis on the way to the desert
Conceived as a gateway to the desert, this stadium with capacity for 40,000 spectators was inaugurated on December 18, 2020 with the final of the Amir Cup that year. It is the home of Al Rayyan, one of the main teams in the Qatari Stars League, the highest division of Qatari football. The team is named after the city, one of the oldest in the country.
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The stadium “incorporates symbols of Qatari culture into its spectacular undulating façade. The facilities surrounding the stadium also reflect the country, with sand dune-like structures reminiscent of the beautiful wild west,” according to the World Cup website. About 1,000 meters away there is a huge shopping mall, where fans who go to see their national team can enjoy themselves before and after the games. The metro is also available just outside the shopping center and is easily accessible to the stadium. The two matches of the continental playoffs Australia vs. Peru and Costa Rica vs. New Zealand, which functioned as test benches for the organization of the World Cup. During the ecumenical tournament, this stadium will host seven group stage matches.
Khalifa International Stadium, the flagship
Khalifa International StadiumIt is the oldest of the eight stadiums: inaugurated in 1976 and renovated in May 2017, it is the home of the local team. It is located in the heart of the Aspire center, a kind of mini city that breathes only football and in which the cracks of the future receive their football education. In the giant venue, there is also the 1,2,3 museum, which worships Olympic history and reviews all the sporting mega-events that Qatar organized.
According to official information, the stadium was able to host the Asian Games, the Arabian Gulf Cup and the Asian Cup. “For the people of Qatar and the region, he is an old friend, a familiar face that brings communities together.” On that same pitch, Lionel Messi scored a goal against Brazil in stoppage time of a friendly played in 2010. The already legendary sports arena will host eight World Cup matches, including the match for third place.
Alejandro Casar González
La Nación Special
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