The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be a “fantastic event”, FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura has said, expressing confidence that the current geopolitical situation in the region will be resolved by then.
In an exclusive interview with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy website (www.sc.qa), Samoura spoke about Qatar's preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the regional geopolitical situation, while also praising the 'spectacular' progress made on workers’ welfare.
The Senegalese former United Nations official also pointed out that Qatar 2022 could help inspire future bidders for the world´s greatest football tournament to place a key focus on legacy planning.
“I think that in terms of infrastructure, the projects are really unfolding as planned. One of the main stadiums at Khalifa International Stadium was inaugurated in May, and from the visits we are undertaking, and the meetings with the local organising committee (LOC), we have no reason to doubt that it will be a fantastic event,” she said in reply to a query on how satisfied FIFA is with the progress on the ground, now that kick-off for Qatar 2022 is just over five years away.
FIFA continues to work hand in hand with the LOC to follow the progress of the geopolitical situation, she noted. “We are five years from this competition, and I´m pretty sure that by the time we kick off for the opening of the World Cup in Qatar, the situation will be solved. We also encourage the mediation effort that has been undertaken by several world leaders, and if there is a way in which football can help in order to bring peace and stability in the region, we would be more than happy also to contribute to that.”
The official stressed that Qatar's legacy approach “really inspired FIFA”, noting that under the new bidding process for 2026, FIFA is encouraging more lasting legacy programmes for all the World Cup tournaments it is organising.
“From what I have heard from Qatar, the way they built this legacy programme is something unique. The modular stadium concept, the fact also they will use this infrastructure for different purposes afterwards is something we really encourage. Hopefully for bidders for 2026, Qatar will be a source of inspiration and motivation on how we should use legacy programmes for future World Cups,” Samoura said.
Asked about the other areas where they have seen long-term benefits from the past seven years of Qatar´s preparations for 2022, she said: “We are working with Qatar on issues like the working conditions for migrant workers, and the progress that has been made already has been spectacular. We would like that kind of dialogue to continue between FIFA and the Supreme Committee.
“The World Cup has definitely helped propel this development, and gives us the opportunity to discuss sensitive issues. We should continue to encourage football to be played in countries where there are issues, because this is the only way to also contribute to the well-being of these countries.”
When asked about the significance of timely completion of venues for the World Cup, she said: “I know that for the previous World Cup, even the day before some things still had to be fixed. I think that with the experience we have seen with Russia, it adds a lot of value to have the World Cup attributed long enough in advance, to allow the host countries to finish all the work.”
A further two venues for the tournament are scheduled for completion by the end of next year, with all stadiums set for completion in 2020, according to SC. Speaking about the impact the event can have for the region, given the fact that it is the first World Cup to be hosted in the Middle East, Samoura said FIFA’s role is to develop football and allow it to be played in every part of the world, and Russia and the Middle East are no exceptions.
“We have 211 member associations and six confederations, we should be fair to each of them and not portray FIFA as an organisation that focuses on only two or three continents. We should be going wherever people are and where they are interested in football,” she added.
On the development of women's football and if the 2022 World Cup will help propel this development in the Arab world, Samoura said they are promoting grassroots football and bringing football to new regions where they can change perceptions.