First 2022 Qatar stadium inaugurated as co-hosting summit moves closer
Qatar has officially inaugurated the first of seven entirely new stadiums that have been built specifically for soccer’s Fifa 2022 World Cup.
The Al Janoub stadium, located just outside the country’s capital of Doha, seats 40,000 and is fully air-conditioned. The first game played there was the final of the local Amir Cup, a tournament for the country’s club sides, between Al Sadd and Al-Duhail.
The stadium had been originally called Al Wakrah, but was renamed shortly before kick-off, according to a tweet from a government official.
The stadium’s opening comes shortly before a 5 June summit of Fifa, where a decision is expected on whether the 2022 tournament can, or should, be expanded from 32 to 48 teams. Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, has said before that he is keen to expand, although realises that any tournament expansion would require co-hosts.
In March, a feasibility study commissioned by Fifa found that giving the tournament 16 more games would require at least two more stadiums being built across the region.
Any co-hosting arrangements would be made trickier by Qatar’s relationship with several neighbouring countries who would otherwise have been candidates to take tournament matches from the country. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have all been boycotting Qatar since mid-2017, and have accused the country of supporting terrorism (allegations Qatar vehemently denies).
Any decision on potential co-hosts must also be signed off by Qatar, which was awarded hosting rights to the tournament in December 2010.
Fifa has recently told human rights groups that it would involve them in conversations about whether to expand the 2022 World Cup to countries beyond Qatar, before making a final decision.
Al Janoub will host matches up to and including the quarter finals of the 2022 World Cup, and will be reduced to a 20,000-seater stadium after the tournament.
The stadium has been described as having an “innovative and futuristic design”, meaning it will be “one of the iconic venues during the first Fifa World Cup in the Arab world.”
This now puts the number of completed 2022 World Cup stadiums at two, after the Khalifa International Stadium, which only needed renovating, was finished and hosted a game in 2017.