The UAE does not wish to be seen as gatecrashing Qatar’s World Cup party in 2022, but is ready to host some matches if asked to do so, a top UAE football official has said.
“UAE will provide all help to Qatar in organising the World Cup. We are always willing to cooperate and even ready to host some matches if they request,” said Yousef Mohammed Abdullah, general secretary of the UAE Football Association (UAEFA) in an exclusive interview with Emirates 24|7 on Monday.
Joseph Sepp Blatter, president of the sport’s governing body Fifa, had fuelled speculation that Qatar could invite other countries to co-host the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East when he spoke on the sidelines of the Fifa Club World Cup held in Abu Dhabi last week.
“Since our neighbour Qatar was chosen to host the World Cup, we feel UAE will also be a part of the event even though we are not hosting it,” said Abdullah referring to the close proximity geographically between the two countries.
“It is only 400km by road to Doha (Qatar’s capital) from here. Once they build the bridge (UAE-Qatar causeway), it will be like travelling from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah. Anyway travelling distances are short unlike in South Africa (during 2010 Fifa World Cup) where it was 1,000km from Cape Town to Johannesburg,” he pointed out.
“But we are happy that Qatar got it after a great fight against tremendous odds. When they are happy we must be happy. They made a good bid and want to introduce new technology to the world such as air conditioned stadiums. May be the Europeans can learn something from this because they have a problem when it snows during winter whereas ours is the heat,” said Abdullah referring to the cancellation of English Premier League matches during the weekend because of heavy snow.
“I would personally like to see some matches being played here but it is the right of Qatar to host it. Any such request has to be made at government to government level. We will be the first country to benefit if there is such a decision,” said Abdullah since UAE have the experience of hosting the Fifa Club World Cup twice.
“It makes us also feel happy that the World Cup is coming to Middle East for the first time. We want to do everything possible to help them organize it,” he said.
“But Fifa has awarded it to Qatar because they know they can do a very good job,” said Abdullah laying to rest speculation about Qatar farming some matches to the neighbouring Gulf states.
UAEFA president Mohammed Khalfan Al Rumaithi also said as much having been reported as saying he backed Qatar to stage the 2022 World Cup finals without the help of neighbouring countries.
“We have not been approached. Qatar won a fair competition and I read in the news that Mr Blatter said only the Qataris can decide if they want the region to participate in this,” Al Rumaithi said.
“We know that at that moment when Mr Blatter opened the envelope [during the Zurich vote] it was only Qatar. They are our neighbours, they are our brothers...Let’s believe in Qatar,” he added.
“Nobody came out from Qatar and said ‘would you do that?’ We are happy for Qatar, they delivered the goods. I think they will go solo,” Al Rumaithi said.
Qatar has also been silent on the issue since Blatter said it was upto the 2022 hosts to decide if they want to go it alone or stage some matches in the neighbouring countries.