The FIFA Arab Cup 2021 in December this year will be a great opportunity to unite the Arab World through football besides testing Qatar’s operational readiness for the prestigious FIFA World Cup in 2022, the game’s global chief Gianni Infantino said on Tuesday.
Infantino was speaking at the draw ceremony of the FIFA Arab Cup at Katara Opera House last evening where the tournament’s four groups were decided.
Qatar have been placed in a relatively easy Group A along with Iraq, with two teams from among Oman, Somalia, Bahrain and Kuwait joining them through a qualifying process later.
“The FIFA Arab Cup will be a fantastic event, the first of many more to come, hopefully,” Infantino said in his brief address.
“The event will prepare Qatar for the World Cup and unite the Arab world’s 450 million people who will cheer and cherish and find out which of the 23 teams is the best in the Arab world,” he added.
The FIFA president added that preparations are on track for Qatar to deliver the “best ever World Cup” in history.
“Everything is almost ready in Qatar to host the Arab Cup and the World Cup. Much more important is the celebration of Arab unity, a celebration of fraternity, a celebration of football which will set the scene for what would be the best ever FIFA World Cup in 2022 here in Qatar.”
Dignitaries at the draw held at Katara
Infantino said he was honoured to be present at the draw.
“It is a great pleasure to be here today in front of you what is indeed a historic event,” he said.
“I want to thank our hosts in this beautiful Katara Opera House. The QOC Chairman and the QFA President are also here. We have our guests from all over the world - AFC President and FIFA's senior officials are also here along with representatives from all the 23 participating countries.”
The tournament will take place from December 1 to 18 and is seen as a vital opportunity to test operations and facilities exactly a year before Qatar hosts the first World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world.
HE Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani, President, Qatar Football Association, said: “Qatar is very excited to host the FIFA Arab Cup later this year. National teams from across the region will have the opportunity to participate in a high-profile tournament which is sure to capture the attention of fans everywhere.
“This is also an important step for the national team’s development and the entire country as we fine-tune preparations for the FIFA World Cup in 2022.”
HE Hassan al-Thawadi, Secretary General, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, said: “This tournament will see elite teams from across the Arab world compete in a FIFA-sanctioned tournament for the first time.
“A tournament of this magnitude – played exactly a year before the World Cup – is sure to excite our football crazy region as we continue preparations for 2022. We look forward to hosting the FIFA Arab Cup and using the tournament to confirm our plans for the World Cup, which is just around the corner.”
Nasser al-Khater, CEO, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC, said: “Following the successful hosting of the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019 and 2021, the FIFA Arab Cup provides Qatar with yet another opportunity to test our plans and preparations ahead of the FIFA World Cup.
“Fans, players and officials will have the opportunity to use World Cup infrastructure, including stadiums, training sites and other facilities. We greatly look forward to hosting national teams from across the Arab world as we build up to the biggest sporting event in our region’s history in 2022.”
The draw's result