UAE keen to help Qatar stage World Cup if needed

Though the UAE FA president Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi stresses that Qatar is fully capable of staging every minute of the 2022 World Cup.

Attendance at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi is up 42 per cent this year on 2009. Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, believes the UAE’s stadiums would be ideal to help Qatar stage World Cup matches in 2022.
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ABU DHABI // The country "stands at the ready for Qatar if they ask" the UAE to play host to matches of the 2022 World Cup, the head of the Football Association said yesterday.

Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi stressed that he believes Qatar is fully capable of staging every minute of the World Cup when the planet's most-watched sporting event is staged 12 years hence.

But should the bid-winning Gulf state express willingness to share out some of the 64 matches with other nations in the region, the UAE would "of course" be interested, he said.

The potential for 2022 World Cup matches in the UAE or in countries such as Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain has been a widely discussed topic since Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, last week suggested it as a possibility.

"We have the stadiums and the infrastructure," al Rumaithi said. But he also said that a Qatar-only World Cup would not shut out neighbouring countries.

"If I want to see a match I can be there in 40 minutes by plane," he said.

As a press conference at the Fairmont Hotel, the Fifa headquarters during the Club World Cup, Jerome Valcke, the general secretary, said that any shift of matches to neighbouring countries would be a two-step process.

The Qatar bid that was approved by the Fifa executive committee on December 2 called for all 2022 games to be played within their borders.

To change that, Valcke said, Qatar would have to revise their bid book and submit any changes to Fifa's executive committee for approval. He said that a potential change in the timing of the 2022 World Cup, from June-July to perhaps January to take advantage of mild weather in the region, would require the same two-step approval process.

Al Rumaithi expressed concern that the discussion of matches outside Qatar, though they certainly would be enthusiastically received by football fans in neighbouring countries, might indicate some sense of concern over Qatar's bid. "We want to believe in Qatar," he said. "They are our neighbours and brothers. Let's all believe in Qatar."

Earlier, Fifa officials said they were "very pleased" with the staging of the 2010 Club World Cup, and al Rumaithi expressed enthusiasm for having the tournament return to Abu Dhabi in 2013 after it goes to Tokyo for 2011 and 2012, with the caveat that the FA would need the backing of the government before it would submit a bid. Qatar is thought to be mulling over a bid for the 2013 Club World Cup, too.

Valcke said all 208 national federations would be invited to submit bids in 2012 for the right to stage the 2013 club event.

Chuck Blazer, a member of the Fifa executive committee and the chairman of the Club World Cup organising committee, described the 2010 Abu Dhabi tournament as superior to the 2009 event here.

"It has been very smooth," he said. "In terms of improvements, what we have learned from last year has enabled us to take out the small bumps in the road and smooth things out. It has been an excellently organised tournament." He added: "We are very pleased with this event to date and expect a wonderful conclusion [in the final matches] on Saturday."

Before the tournament, Blazer cited increased attendance as a goal for organisers this year, and through six matches the goal is being reached. Attendance is up 42 per cent, from 99,686 at this stage in 2009 to 141,514 this year.

Blazer said the 2010 Club World Cup would be remembered as the first in which a team from outside South America and Europe advanced to the final. TP Mazembe of Africa will play the European champions Inter Milan for the title at 9pm tomorrow at Zayed Sports City.

"It's a historic note and I'm happy it has happened here in the UAE and it can go into your record book," he said.

Mazembe, he added, "bring a lot of style to the stadium and a musical flair, and it's been good for the tournament. The football they have played shows them worthy of being in the final."

Al Rumaithi said the event was good for local football. "This competition has taken the level of football in this country into higher heights and this is paving a new way into this region, as well."

He also thanked the volunteers who have helped make the tournament run so smoothly by welcoming international visitors and ticket-holders at the stadiums.

The biggest contingent of international visitors came from Brazil, according to local organisers, totalling about 7,000. However, their team, Internacional of Porto Alegre, fell to TP Mazembe in a semi-final match. Internacional plays Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma of South Korea in the third-place match tomorrow at 6pm.