Qatar World Cup organizers fear coronavirus impact on 2022 football tournament

Above, inside Qatar’s new Al-Bayt Stadium in Doha, which will host matches of the FIFA football World Cup 2022, in this December 17, 2019 photo. (AFP file photo)
Short Url
Updated 21 May 2020

Qatar World Cup organizers fear coronavirus impact on 2022 football tournament

  • Many countries have been reporting a slowdown in their economies

DUBAI: 2022 FIFA World Cup organizers are apprehensive football fans will not travel to Doha to watch games if the coronavirus pandemic continues to hold the global economy in dire straits.

Many countries have been reporting a slowdown in their economies while others are expected to go into historically deep recessions as the coronavirus pandemic, which affected 5 million people globally, shuttered businesses and caused industries to stall.

Major economies like the US have reported that retail sales fell a record 19 percent in April, and was a key reason why the American economy was contracting.

Britain’s economy shrank by a record 5.8 percent in March from February as the coronavirus crisis escalated, while its gross domestic product for the first three months of contracted by 2.0 percent from the fourth quarter of last year. British economic output is set to crash 14 percent this year owing to the coronavirus, the Bank of England earlier said.

Qatar has been promising that the World Cup would be affordable for fans, but has, itself, been affected by economic activity shutting down in so many countries.

The tiny Gulf nation still hopes six of its eight stadiums will be completed by the end of this year despite the COVID-19 disruption. But its effort to fast track the construction of these venues has also raised criticisms over the conditions of migrant workers that Doha brought in.

One TV documentary has claimed at least 1,400 migrant workers from Nepal have died while working on the football stadiums due to construction site accidents and squalid living conditions.

The frenetic construction work for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is claiming around 110 lives every year, according to Nepali government figures.

The World Cup is scheduled to be played in November-December 2022, rather than its usual June-July slot, which may provide more time for the resumption of international travel but remains blurry considering the current global economic situation.

“By 2022 I’m optimistic that we would overcome this pandemic as a human race collectively,” World Cup organizing committee secretary general Hassan Al-Thawadi meanwhile said.

“It will be one of the early opportunities for all of us to celebrate together, to engage together, to bring people together.”

Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

Updated 10 August 2020

Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

  • All games from the quarterfinals onwards will be played as one-off ties across four venues

PARIS: Manchester United, Inter Milan and Sevilla headline a quintet of former champions traveling to Germany for a remodeled eight-team straight knockout tournament that will crown the winner of a Europa League campaign heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

All games from the quarterfinals onwards in this season’s competition will be played behind closed doors as one-off ties across four venues — Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen — following a five-month interruption.

While a Champions League berth still awaits the victor of the final in Cologne on Aug. 21, much has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak that brought European football to a standstill in March.

“There are rules and regulations on the bubble that’s going to travel. We’ve got to stick together, stay together in and around the hotel and the training ground,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of the strict health protocols clubs must respect.

Players and staff will undergo virus testing before departing for Germany and again on the eve of a match once arriving, a process repeated for each subsequent game in the final tournament.

UEFA has advised teams to travel on charter flights and minimize contact with the general public, strongly recommending the use of exclusive hotels — to which players will largely be confined — in order to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Masks will not be required for substitutes and coaching staff but they must maintain social distancing when seated, with players instructed to limit contact as much as possible when warming up. Match balls will be disinfected before kickoff and at half-time.

United, the 2017 winners, face FC Copenhagen in Monday’s quarterfinal in Cologne while Serie A runners-up Inter take on Bayer Leverkusen in a clash of former UEFA Cup champions at Dusseldorf Arena.

England forward Jesse Lingard, who played in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the final three years ago, is confident the team can capture the title for a second time.

“We can’t wait to get there and play this game now. 100 per cent I want to win it again,” Lingard told MUTV.

“Lifting a trophy is a special feeling you can’t really explain and winning it before you take that confidence forward. We have got a mixture of youth and experience in the squad and for the young lads to win their first trophy, it will be perfect for them.”

Should United advance to the last four they would face either Sevilla — who have won the Europa League and its precursor, the UEFA Cup, a record five times — or Premier League rivals Wolves in Cologne
on Aug. 16.

Wolves are through to a first European quarterfinal since 1972 but were punished by UEFA in midweek after failing to comply with Financial Fair Play requirements. They take on Sevilla in Duisburg on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Inter beat Getafe 2-0 in a single-leg last-16 tie Wednesday in Gelsenkirchen, and Antonio Conte’s men harbor hopes of adding to the three UEFA Cups won in the 1990s.

“This is an important competition. It doesn’t matter where and under what conditions you’re playing, you should only be focused on the upcoming match,” midfielder Christian Eriksen told Inter TV.

“It’s certainly not as fun playing without fans, the atmosphere isn’t there. We’ll try to excite them while they’re watching on TV, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to embrace our supporters again soon.”

Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of the 2009 edition, play Swiss outfit Basel in the other quarterfinal in Gelsenkirchen.

This year’s Europa League final was initially due to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk in late May before the health crisis forced a change of plans.

Gdansk will host next year’s final instead.