Doha, 6 December 2022 - With the exciting knockout rounds underway, football legends from the Arab world have praised the success of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ so far.
Former Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi and former Egypt centre-back Wael Gomaa see the tournament – which will culminate with the final at Lusail Stadium on 18 December – as an historic milestone for the Middle East and Arab world.
“Seeing fans from across the globe here in Qatar will go a long way towards breaking down barriers between the region and the rest of the world,” said Gomaa, who led Egypt to three African Cup of Nations titles.
“Qatar 2022 has proved to the world that we are capable of organising world-class events while showcasing our culture and traditions,” added Gomaa, who is a Qatar Legacy Ambassador.
Qatar 2022 is the first mega-event to be held in the region. Matches are being played at eight state-of-the-art stadiums, with the longest distance between venues just 75km. Thanks to the compact nature of the tournament, fans have been attending more than one match a day and players have had the luxury of staying in one accommodation for the duration of the competition.
“For the first time in a modern World Cup, fans have been attending two, three or even four matches a day. This has created an unbelievable atmosphere all across the country – a melting pot of cultures and football traditions,” said Al Habsi, who enjoyed a stellar career in Europe with the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic and Reading.
“It’s been fantastic for the players, who have stayed in one accommodation and enjoyed plenty of rest between matches. We have seen the effect this has had on the football, with the tournament delivering so many exciting matches and quite a few upsets,” added Al Habsi, who is also a Qatar Legacy Ambassador.
For Gomaa, the tournament’s timing has also contributed to fans enjoying a high level of football.
“Having the World Cup in the middle of the domestic season for most players has meant them coming into the event at peak fitness levels. It has helped us to see some very competitive fixtures, which has been a delight for fans and players alike,” said Gomaa.
Al Habsi also praised the impact of Arab nations at the competition. Hosts Qatar made their debut in the tournament, while Saudi Arabia produced a major upset by defeating Lionel Messi’s Argentina in their opening group game. Tunisia beat defending champions France while Morocco topped a difficult group to make it through to the last 16 and today’s encounter with Spain.
“The performances we have seen from Arab teams have been remarkable and testament to the strength of the sport in the region. We are all hoping Morocco can continue to fly the flag for the Arab world in the knockout rounds,” said Al Habsi, who was the first Arab player to win the English FA Cup.
He added: “Even though Qatar exited at the group stage, this experience will undoubtedly be a turning point for the growth of the national team. The future is bright for Qatar and all the teams in the region, who will be motivated by this remarkable World Cup to qualify for future tournaments.”