Thursday, February 02, 2023 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Joseph Varghese
Joseph Varghese
A journalist with a penchant for reporting events, Joseph Varghese digs deep to unearth facts. With several years of experience, including at Gulf Times, Joseph handles health, science and technology, IT and education in addition to everyday developments.
Al Hilm has a unique graphic design, befitting of an occasion as historic as the final matches of a FIFA World Cup.
Al Hilm, official ball for World Cup finals, revealed

Al Hilm (Arabic for ‘the dream’), the official match ball for the semifinals and final of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, was revealed Sunday at a special event in the Al Rihla Arena at the FIFA Fan Festival. Al Rihla was the official match ball until the quarter-final stage.The event organised by adidas had footballing legends Brazilian Kaka (Ricardo) and Spanish lker Casillas unveiling Al Hilm and highlighting the importance of added technology match balls to support the highest game speeds as they travel faster in flight than any other World Cup ball.“Al Hilm, the official match ball being played with on the field of play features ‘Connected Ball’ technology, an unprecedented innovation which has proved a great success in making semi-automated offside decisions faster and more accurate during this World Cup,” FIFA said in a press statement.Both Kaka and Casillas, at a roundtable discussion recalled their experiences about FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 so far and said that it was one of the greatest tournaments so far in World Cup history.“The compact nature of the tournament has particularly helped the smooth conduct of the tournament so far. Many people could watch more than two games on a single day which is very fascinating. This is unthinkable at most other places. Moreover, the organisation of the tournament so far has been extremely excellent and smooth which deserves special appreciation,” said Kaka.Al Hilm has a unique graphic design, befitting of an occasion as historic as the final matches of a FIFA World Cup. Combined with player position data, the innovation in Al Hilm offers video match officials instant data, to help optimise decision making for a seamless fan experience. By combining the ball data captured by IMU sensors within the ball and applying Artificial Intelligence, the new technology supports the semi-automated offside system, especially by providing the exact moment the ball is played in tight offside situations.Johannes Holzmüller, director of Football Technology & Innovation at FIFA, said: “With the development of the connected ball technology, adidas made it possible that an additional important layer of information is available to the video match officials. The data from the ball unlocks new insights for storytelling around the unique moments on the pitch at this World Cup.”The design of the ball is set on a textured gold base colour which features a subtle triangular pattern, drawing inspiration from the sparkling deserts of the region that surround the city, the colour of the FIFA World Cup trophy, and the pattern of the Qatar flag. Bold red accents complement the graphic, reflecting both the generative architecture of Qatar, and once again, the country’s flag.The ball encapsulates its namesake, as it connects to the twilight hours, where the red sky meets the desert sand at dusk – a time when dreams are set to come true under the floodlights of the Lusail Stadium – the stage for the final of the World Cup 2022.The ball was also designed with the environment at its heart - all components have been carefully considered, and Al Hilm is the first World Cup semifinals and final ball made using only water-based inks and glues. Al Hilm features the same new panel shape and surface textures introduced for Al Rihla.“Al Hilm represents a beacon of light on the power of sport and football to bring the world together. Millions will tune in from almost every country around the globe, united by their passion for the game. We wish all teams involved in the final stages of the tournament the best of luck as they compete on the largest stage that football has to offer” Nick Craggs, general manager, Football, adidas, added.

Al Khater family members along with HE Dr Hamad bin Abdelaziz al-Kawari.
QF launches Al Khater House restoration project at Education City

Qatar Foundation (QF) has launched the restoration and preservation of a historic house situated in the Education City.QF is restoring Al Khater House as a location for sustainable, inclusive cultural heritage activities and experiences for people of all ages, while retaining its authenticity and historical value. The first of this will take place within the house during QF’s upcoming D’reesha Performing Arts Festival.The launch event took place Saturday in the presence of HE Dr Hamad bin Abdelaziz al-Kawari, Minister of State and President of Qatar National Library, Fahad al-Khater, head of the Al Khater family, Nasser al-Khater, CEO of Qatar 2022, several members of the Al Khater family and senior officials of QF among others.Together with representatives from QF member, Qur’anic Botanic Garden, Al- Khater family members planted a variety of Qatari plants at Al Khater House as a symbol of its revival. As the plans for the restoration of the building move forward, Qatar National Library’s Heritage Programme will undertake a project to document the oral history of the house, those who lived there, and their lifestyles.Dr al-Kawari, welcomed QF’s plans for preserving historic buildings at Education City, which he described as an important part of Qatar’s heritage. He explained: “They provide important evidence of the history of urban civilisation in the region. We are keen to transfer this heritage to a new generation, and are pleased to announce today that Al Khater House is the first of the heritage structures to be activated, highlighting Qatar Foundation’s vision for preserving heritage sites at Education City.”Speaking to Gulf Times, Nasser al-Khater said: “This is my grandfather’s house. We are very happy that Qatar Foundation has put in the efforts to preserve our heritage and traditions as a whole and specially the Al Khater family heritage. We appreciate the care and efforts in preserving the house and its traditions.”“It is a house that many of the Al Khater family members have lived in. I believe that this house was built around 1910. It is more than 100 years old and that is what I have heard about the house,” he added.Nur Alah Abdelzayed Valdeolmillos, senior architect at QF told Gulf Times: " The Al Khater House with its history and authenticity occupies a strategic location in the heart of Education City, and Qatar Foundation has envisioned to restore the house preserving its authenticity and historical value as a space for cultural exchange, presenting live and permanent practices of the local cultural heritage with the aim of providing a sustainable and inclusive experience for all generations. We plan to complete the restoration project at the earliest possible."Rashid al-Khater, a member of the family whose name Al Khater House bears, said: “I was born in this house and lived my childhood here, and I have beautiful memories of it. I feel very happy when I see the efforts of Qatar Foundation in preserving this house and its heritage. Over the years, it has become a reflection of Qatari history.”Al-Khater family member, Aisha bint Mohammed bin Fahd al-Khater said: “It is wonderful that the past and present is blended in one location here at Education City, and I am very happy and grateful that Qatar Foundation is making these efforts because of its commitment to preserving national heritage. I thank everyone concerned in preserving our family home.”Al Khater House is one of a number of heritage sites within Education City, all of which QF is making similar preservation plans for.The event was held ahead of the second edition of the D’reesha Performing Arts Festival, which will take place at Oxygen Park and Al Khater House and celebrate performing arts alongside Arab culture, language, and heritage, through music, theatre, poetry, storytelling, education, science, and more.

Nasser al-Khater
Qatar World Cup visitors to exceed 1mn in days: Qatar 2022 CEO

Qatar is well on course to have more than one million visitors to the country by the last leg of the FIFA World Cup tournament, a senior official of Qatar 2022 told Gulf Times.“Close to 800,000 fans and visitors have already reached the country for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Within in the coming days, the number is expected to go beyond one million,” said, Nasser al-Khater, chief executive officer, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.Al-Khater was speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the launch of the Al Khater House reconstruction project at the Education City of Qatar Foundation."The number of fans that have attended the tournament and reached the country are in line with our plans. We are getting very positive feedback from various corners about the tournament and its organisation so far,” continued al-Khater.According to the CEO of Qatar 2022, the tournament has exceeded the expectations on several fronts. He explained: “The television coverage of the tournament has been great so far. It has gone bigger than expected with wide viewership all around the globe. We are also getting very positive feedback about the tournament and the facilities offered to the fans.”As for the tournament and the matches so far, the official said it was going on very well and the matches are very engrossing. “We are very happy with the quality of the matches and with the results as well as the way the teams have played. We have seen some very good matches and we are also equally happy with the organisation of the tournament. It is moving on very well as per our plans and expectations we have put in place for the tournament right from the beginning. We are also receiving very good inputs from various quarters,” added al-Khater.

An African folk art performance
People enjoy Corniche evenings lit up with pyrotechnics, street carnival

The Doha Corniche is taking the centre stage with World Cup festivities, sporting a number of street carnival celebrations along the central stretch of the area.There is also a “Welcome to Qatar” show with dancing fountains, a pyrotechnics and drone show, from 5.15pm to 6.30pm, and at 9pm.A large number of people are enjoying the festivities, which start from 3pm every day and continue until 2am, as they roam around the Corniche.There are various international food options available along the streets.The street carnival includes several traditional arts, music and dance programmes from around the world.Along the Corniche Street, various artistes from different parts of the world perform traditional dances, with crowds cheering them and even joining them at times.Some of the African traditional folk presentations in particular are a big hit, with crowds asking for an encore at the end of the performances.There are also Asian performances and Western music shows, and a number of traditional Arabic art forms presented.One highlight of the carnival is the 15-minute dancing fountains and the pyrotechnics and drone show that lights up the entire area.With fireworks lighting up the sky, people can also watch La’eeb, the Qatar 2022 mascot, dancing with the fountains on the Corniche Bay.The show progresses with two figures kicking a football and joining hands to convey the message of football uniting the world.The pyrotechnics show ends with the message “Welcome to Qatar”.“ It has been an amazing stay for me here in Qatar,” said Pedro from Portugal. “I am here for the last ten days and every day I am able to explore something new and find something very interesting.”“I enjoyed the carnival atmosphere and the great hospitality of the people,” he added.He noted the fantastic weather.“The weather is very pleasant and cool, and it is wonderful to walk through the Corniche and other parts of the city in the evening, enjoying the breeze,” Pedro said. “A very fantastic atmosphere. I am glad that I came here for the World Cup.”

Unveiling of the  painting was attended by HE the Minister of Culture Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad al-Thani, HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani, HE the Minister of State and Qatar National Library president Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and other dignitaries. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Qatar sets Guinness World Record with largest canvas painting

Qatar added yet another Guinness World Record to its credit Wednesday when the Ministry of Culture revealed the largest painting on canvas - equalling to the dimension of a football ground or 9,652sq m - by artist Imad Salehi. The event at Qatar University football stadium was attended by HE the Minister of Culture Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad al-Thani, HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani, HE the Minister of State and Qatar National Library president Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and other dignitaries.The record was adjudicated by Shaddy Gaad, senior marketing manager, Mena region of Guinness World Records.Gaad said: “The previous record for the largest artwork on canvass was 1,595.76sq m set by Sasha Jaffrey in 2020. This painting measures 9,652sq m, which is the new Guinness World Record for the largest canvas painting.”Speaking to Gulf Times, Salehi said: “It took me over five months to complete the painting. I used about 3,000 litres of paint and 150 brushes. I used to work around 14 to 18 hours a day. This whole idea started with the ball story which is the history of the World Cup.”“I took it as a challenge and wanted to present it for Guinness World Record to coincide with the World Cup here in Qatar. I mixed it with Arabic culture with other cultures. When you explore the painting you can see the history of football. I have painted more than10,000 figures on the entire canvas,” he stressed.Sheikh Faisal commented: "It is a great pleasure for me to witness this important event and Al Faisal Holding is among the supporters of this event. The huge piece of art by artist Salehi, expresses the close relationship between art, culture and sport, all of which would unite people and bring them closer to each other. I also take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Culture for its remarkable efforts in supporting artists with creative ideas that would enrich the cultural and artistic scene in Qatar.”Maryam Yassin al-Hammadi, director of the Department of Culture and Arts at the Ministry of Culture added: "We salute the creative artist, Imad Salehi, and the Ministry of Culture is proud of the existence of competitive international initiatives in which everyone contributes. This is not the first time that culture-related records have been set up, either directly or indirectly. This record coincides with Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup and aims to unite the world through art and sports.”

Visiting Indian legislator Saneesh Kumar Joseph with former Croatian president Kolinda Grabar during a World Cup match.
Qatar World Cup, a model for others to emulate, says Indian legislator

An Indian politician, who attended some of the World Cup matches, has praised the way Qatar organised the mega sporting event and says it is a model for others to follow.“The Doha Metro has been the central nerve that connected the stadiums and made the travelling astonishingly easy and simple,” T J Saneesh Kumar Joseph, a current member of the legislative assembly of Kerala, told Gulf Times.Representing the constituency of Chalakudy in central Kerala, Joseph paid a visit to Gulf Times and interacted with the staff and shared his impressions about Qatar and the World Cup.“Qatar has arranged world class facilities for the World Cup. They are simply superb and the access to the stadiums are flawless and fantastic. People could move freely and seamlessly reach the stadiums which is something great considering the magnitude of the tournament. This is a real model for other countries that host mega events,” he continued.Joseph who is a first time legislator is also on his maiden visit to Qatar said that the World Cup was also an opportunity for enjoying the Arabian hospitality. “It has been a great experience for me as I am overwhelmed by the hospitality of the country and its people. The people are so welcoming and it has been a great cultural exchange for me,” he pointed out.The legislator also disclosed that he plans Athirappally Water Falls, a major tourist spot in his constituency to be transformed into top destination of international standard. “The vision is to make Athirapally, a world class destination such as the Niagara Falls,” he added.

Anoop John with his parents at Doha Port.
World Cup unites families, friends, acquaintances

Qatar, currently is a great manifestation of the FIFA slogan ‘Football unites the World’- truly and literally. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has brought together families, friends and acquaintances with tens of thousands visiting the country.These include former residents who have been away from their families and friends. For Anoop John Alocious, it was a sweet homecoming as he was away from his parents for almost three years. Born and brought up in Qatar, he is currently based in Melbourne as he completed his study and started working there. Since he had left for Australia sometime before the Covid-19 pandemic, this was his longest stint away from his family.Anoop, a football enthusiast right from his early childhood, told Gulf Times: “ I had been away from my parents for such a long time for the first time in my life. After I completed my graduation, I got place in a firm and started working there. It was not possible for me to get leave from the firm. Then I decided that come what may - I must be in Qatar by the time the World Cup starts.”Having arrived in Qatar in the last week of November, Anoop plans to return immediately after the World Cup. He has already watched several matches and plans to attend many more. It was a much-awaited reunion for him and his parents who are working in Qatar Energy and Hamad Medical Corporation.For Ravi Jose Thanickal, another former resident of Qatar, it is a dream come true. Thanickal, who had worked in Qatar for more than 10 years, left the country in 2010.Thanickal, a football fanatic and a die-hard Argentine fan, feels grateful to Qatar for realising his dream of attending World Cup matches in person. “If it was not in Qatar it would have been very difficult for me to attend these many matches. I could also watch my favourite team as well as Lionel Messi playing in front of me. These are some of my great moments and something that I will cherish forever,” he said.Thanickal, with his political, social and family connections, has a large number of friends in Doha and it is also a time for him to meet and greet many of them and renew the ties. “I have already informed my company back in India that I would be back only after conclusion of the tournament. I want to meet all my friends and family members. I don’t want to miss this golden opportunity and want to relish each and every moment with the hope that Argentina will lift the cup in this edition,” he noted.Biju John, general manager at the Mediterranean Shipping Company, is another ardent football fan and during this World Cup he is hosting a number of his friends and neighbours from his village in India.“ It is a great occasion to look back into my past as I started watching World Cup on television in 1986. So the journey that started some 36 years back is completing a full cycle in Doha with the action happening with my presence for several matches. I could also bring several of my friends and family members here through ‘Host a Fan’ platform and it is a great feeling and emotional fulfillment,” said John.He also noted that the World Cup and related activities has rekindled his passion for writing and he has started penning some football experiences through social media platforms.Social media is abuzz with several stories of such reunions and renewal of friendship during this World Cup. A Sri Lankan national, Chandana said that he was meeting his brother after seven years as both of them are in two different countries and due to various reasons could not meet each other. But the World Cup has brought them together.Several others point out that they are in touch with many of their friends whom they had not met for a long time, sometimes beyond a decade.

Gulf Times
‘World Cup provides great momentum for women in Qatar’

The number of women in sports from Qatar is growing and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is providing a huge momentum for them to follow their passion, a Qatari woman athlete has said. “The presence of women in sports activities is growing in Qatar and the region. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is a great occasion for the nationals to nurture their talents and skills. The World Cup is providing great momentum for everyone in the country and women, in particular, to follow sports activities. I always tell everyone, especially all the women, to excel in their field, to do whatever they are good at and love what they do," Mariam Mamdouh Farid told Gulf Times.Farid represented the country at the 17th World Athletics Championship held in Doha in 2019 where she participated in the women's 400m hurdles race.“The vibes are so thrilling and I am so excited about the ongoing World Cup. Thousands of tourists and fans are here from every corner of the world and they are all exploring the city like anything. It is very exciting and we are very proud that it is happening here in Qatar,” she noted.According to Farid, the group stage of the tournament has been very interesting and unexpected on many counts with several upsets “It has been an exciting and unpredictable first round of the tournament with so many upsets and several new countries entering into the second round. Such things rarely happen in the World Cup. More and more Asian and African countries are in the second round which is very good for football in these continents,” she said.“I have been to a couple of games and the organisation of the tournament is incredible. It is so beautiful to watch the games for the stadium and the entire atmosphere is electrifying both inside and outside the stadiums. Everything with Qatar World Cup is outstanding and wonderful. It has been a top-class World Cup so far,” she continued.Farid said she is supporting the African and Arab countries first. “As of now, I am a supporter of Morocco. My other favourite team is Brazil and hope they will have a wonderful tournament,” she said.On her personal journey as an athlete, Farid said she was fortunate to be part of the national team. “I have been part of international tournaments for the last 10 years. It is my love and passion to track and field that prompts me to continue in the field and work hard for the glory of my country. I have given my everything for the love of my sport. I was the first one to represent Qatar in two World Athletics Championships. I hope to perform better in the upcoming competitions,” she added.

Hannibal Mejbri
 Tunisian World Cup squad member praises training facilities in Qatar

A member of the national football squad of Tunisia has showered praise on the training facilities offered during their World Cup campaign in Qatar highlighting it as ‘perfect and superb’.In his first interaction with the media after the exit of his team from the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Hannibal Mejbri, one of the youngest members of the squad told Gulf Times: “We had superb facilities for practice all through our stay here. We had everything needed next to us and never had any issue with the any facilities. It was perfect and everything about the tournament is superb. We had a great experience and I think it is one of the best world Cups ever. ”The young Tunisian also noted that Qatar is a great place to be in. He explained: “I came here for the Arab Cup last year. We were in the finals. I like the country and the entire atmosphere. The facilities in Qatar are very good and the people are really nice. Qatar is a very nice country and the World Cup has shown that the country is capable of hosting any mega event.”Mejbri, aged 19 who played the first game of World Cup said that it was a great feeling to play for his country. “This is my first World Cup and I hope to play many more editions of the tournament in the coming years. I have played over 20 games for the country so far and it is a wonderful feeling to be part of the national team and represent the country at the highest level of football,” said, Mejbri.He also noted that it was great to be part of a team that defeated the much celebrated French team. “ It was great to be part of the team that defeated France and we are thrilled about it. It was a good win. But at the same time, it is disappointing that we could not qualify for the second round of the tournament and I am very sad about it. However, as a team we have been able to play high quality football and hopefully we will be able to perform better in the next editions of World Cup and other matches,” continued, Mejbri.He also highlighted that Asian and African teams have done very well in this tournament. “ This World Cup is very different and special as several leading teams are out of the tournament in the first round itself. There are more representations from Africa and Asia in the next round. This is what the game of football is all about. I am very happy for Morocco qualifying for the next round. This will provide great boost for several countries in both the continents especially in the Arab World,” added, Mejbri.

Gulf Times
Cameroon expats release song celebrating Qatar and FIFA World Cup

A group of Cameroonian residents in the country has come out with a colourful and beautifully picturised song in celebration of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.Several of them have been the residents of the country for a very long time and celebrating the glory of the Qatar World Cup in many ways. The song, Ole Ole, is a crowning tribute of their joy to the country and a humble dedication to the successful organisation of the World Cup.“The song is an expression of love towards the country and also sports. It is a great occasion and Qatar has shown the spirit and greatness by hosting a wonderful World Cup. When Qatar was awarded to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, we all cheered and it is expressed through this song. As they say music unites us all and it does not know borders. It connects hearts and makes us cheer. It does not have a language,” said the singers of the song, Eddy and Boris who believe this song will be a tribute the country they reside in.The song was conceptualised a few of months ago in September and has been developed over time. The song is “relentlessly upbeat and melodic,” situating it perfectly with most official World Cup anthems. The energy is seen through the visuals and choreography.The song was shot on the outskirts of Doha and Sealine Beach with vibrant elements and dozens of junior artists. The song carries the content of greeting and welcoming in the name of all Cameroonian expatriates in Qatar, and the director of the song, Rocky Gracian shot the visuals through a diverse musical vision based on the theme of sea, land, and hip-hop.The singers are: Eddy, Tinaice, Boris, Maryanick and Kay-C. The production crew include: Rocky Gracian, director; Mohammed Shanaz, director of production, Mohammad Rafi, production manager, Charith Imado - VFX artist and Steffnie De Silva, colourist.Production assistants are: Kanchana Gunawardena, Ishan Perera and Maneesha Nadeeshani and the song is released on

Bino George at one of the stadiums during a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match.
Qatar World Cup ‘incomparable, amazing’: Indian football official

A senior Indian football coach has lauded the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, describing it as one of the best and most beautiful editions of the tournament so far in its history. He also feels that Spain stands a good chance to win this year’s World Cup with lot of promising young players.“First of all, the compact nature of the tournament has been so convenient for everyone who wants to watch more than one match a day. Moreover, the transportation part has been a huge success. The organising committee truly deserves 100% credit for such fantastic arrangements. It is simply incomparable and amazing," said Bino George, who was the head coach of the Kerala team that won the Santhosh Trophy tournament this year.Santhosh Trophy is the most coveted interstate football tournament in India.George, an Indian professional manager and former footballer, is currently the East Bengal assistant coach to Stephen Constantine for the Indian Super League.“I understand that all the teams are very happy about their practice facilities and other logistics aspects. All the visitors find no problems in reaching their destinations. Overall everything is smooth and seamless,” noted George.The Indian footballer said that the first round of games has been very exciting and electrifying so far. “I could watch several of the matches. All the games have been excellent which also saw some upsets. Some of the Asian teams have been very promising. This is a good sign for Asian football and it can be reflected in the coming games in the Asian continent including the next year’s Asian Football championship,” he said.George is of the opinion that Spain, Brazil and France have better chances to win the tournament. “ I fancy Spain to win the tournament. They are a young talented team and have already shown their potential in the group stage matches. Brazil on the other side is equally good but they did not have any strong opponents in the group stage and so they need to have greater performance in the knockout stages. France is also equally impressive but they are missing some key players,” he pointed out.As for the Indian football scenario, George noted that football is becoming more and more popular in his country but still a lot has to be done to make it world-class. “We need more infrastructure at local and state levels to train the players. We have a lot of young talents but they need to be trained properly with all the necessary skills to compete at the international level. Hopefully, the situation will become better in the coming years, “he added.

David Villa
Amazing tournament with fantastic logistics arrangements: Spanish footballers

Spanish footballers David Villa and Fernando Hierro have described the Qatar World Cup facilities as ‘amazing and incredible.’ They had a special word of praise for the logistics and transportation facilities of the tournament.“The facilities are very good and we are all enjoying the organisation of the whole tournament. It has been a fantastic week so far and we are looking forward to a fantastic tournament ahead. The tournament facilities such as the transportation to the stadiums especially the metro are superb,” Villa, a prominent striker and part of the World Cup winning Spanish squad in 2010, told Gulf Times.According to Hierro, it has been an amazing tournament with world class facilities and outstanding management of the tournament. “I am amazed at the facilities and the tournament organisers have been meticulous about all the details of the tournament. This could be one of the best tournaments ever,” noted Hierro, a member of the Spanish national team as well as the manager of the team for a long time. As a team coach, he won five La Liga and three Champions League trophies with Real Madrid in 14 years in addition to several other feats.Villa said that this year’s edition of the World Cup saw many new teams emerge as potential challengers for the celebrated teams which is good for football. “Asian and African teams have become major challengers and this is proving to be exciting making the tournament all the more unpredictable. This is the beauty of football and I believe that this will continue to be so in the coming years as more and more teams emerge from the shadows of the big names,” said, Villa.Hierro pointed out that the next World Cup will open up the football to a larger audience as 48 teams will be eligible to take part in the tournament. He added: “This is going to be a super electrifying tournament with more participants from every continent and this can change the whole complexion of the tournament. It will lead to more participation and the emergence of new stars and countries on the international arena.”Spain 'a favourite to win tournament'Spain definitely stands a chance to win this year’s World Cup according to the Spanish striker, David Villa.“Spain is definitely one of the front runners to win this year’s World Cup. I would also include Brazil, France and Portugal among the four probable teams to win this year’s World Cup,” Villa told Gulf Times Tuesday.The Spanish footballer noted that the game is wide open after the completion of the first week of the tournament.He said: “Spain had a fantastic opening match against Costa Rica. All the team members are playing very well and the team is all set. Germany is a very good team and therefore the match against them was really tough which ended in a draw. I feel that Spain would raise their games in the coming matches and would go all the way to lift the cup.”

Gulf Times
Dutch football legend lauds preparations, compact nature of World Cup

The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar is an opportunity to build bridges between cultures and do away with the misconceptions and misunderstandings about the region, Qatar 2022 legacy ambassador and Dutch football legend Ronald de Boer has said.He also lauded the arrangements and infrastructure prepared for the tournament to ensure the smooth and seamless conduct of matches, while providing easy access to stadiums, as the tournament entered its second week.He emphasised that the compact nature of this year’s World Cup has been a major advantage of the tournament.“As His Highness the Amir said, we are not perfect. Qatar has its own challenges,” de Boer said during a press interaction at the Host Country Media Centre Saturday. “But a lot has been done to make the conditions far better and still many more things are being done but it takes time.”He was responding to a query on the criticism levelled at Qatar with regard to hosting the World Cup.The 2022 legacy ambassador noted that Qatar is progressing on all fronts with a clear vision.“The country is going forward with a lot of progressive ideas of inclusion and positivity,” he said. “Qatar doesn’t stop here but goes beyond the 2022 World Cup.”“The government is working very hard to make lives better with Qatar National Vision 2030. This clear vision is truly remarkable and the focus on education with more schools and universities is another important factor,” de Boer explained.He felt that the World Cup has acted as a catalyst for a legacy for which Qatar has worked very hard.“Now everybody can see the abilities of the country and the region. People also feel the warmth, friendliness and hospitality of Qatar, which is remarkable,” he added. “Hopefully, it will bring about a lot of good things for the rest of the world.”De Boer also stressed that the compactness of the Qatar World Cup and accessibility to stadiums has been some of the greatest advantages of the tournament.“I think it's been amazing. I have been to several games, seeing the organisation from a close distance. The way to the stadiums, the entrance, how things work – and I only see happy faces,” he remarked. “I see people who are not frustrated with waiting in big lines. There are no traffic problems and everyone can enter the stadiums without any hassles.”“And the beauty of the tournament is its compactness. People can watch more than one match in a day, which is not possible in other World Cups as the matches are played in different cities, which are far away,” de Boer pointed out. “I met a boy who went to three games in a single day. It is a great compliment and one of the biggest advantages of the tournament.”Brazil favourites to win World Cup 2022: Qatar 2022 legacy ambassadorFormer Dutch national footballer and Qatar 2022 legacy ambassador Ronald de Boer feels that Brazil are the team to beat in the tournament as the group stage of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 enters a crucial phase.“For me, Brazil are the number one favourites, especially after their match against a team like Serbia,” he said. “Serbia are a great team and they played very well to contain Brazil in the first half. But Brazil did well, especially in the second half.”“They played very good football and I think they have a very talented side and will continue the winning streak,” de Boer said at the Host Country Media Centre yesterday.De Boer added that Spain, France and England are also very good teams and stand a chance to win the tournament.“Many of the teams have shown great promise in their first matches,” he stated. “Several of these teams are tough and we can expect very tight matches in the coming days.”“There could be many surprises and that is the beauty of the game of football,” de Boer added. “But still, I believe the favourites are Brazil.”He said that the road is wide open for any team to advance and felt that Argentina would make a comeback.Similarly he felt that teams like the Netherlands and Portugal can also come up with a huge surprise, making the situation fluid and difficult to predict.

John Desa at one of the stadiums.
Stadium-hopping: Doha resident watches four matches in a day

Donning a t-shirt with the words ‘Stadium Hopping Day - Watching 4 Matches’ printed in bold, a longtime resident of Qatar watched four football matches of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in a single day, highlighting the advantages of a compact tournament. The feat was achieved by John Desa last Wednesday, November 23.Asked about the unique accomplishment and whether it qualifies for a Guinness World Record, Desa told Gulf Times: “I don’t know whether it is a Guinness World Record or not, but I always wanted to attend World Cup matches but that did not materialise until Qatar hosted the World Cup. I just wanted to make it special and the compact nature of the Qatar 2022 World Cup helped me realise it.”Desa has been in Qatar for the last 37 years. He works for QatarEnergy and is the secretary for football, hockey and carrom at the Indian Sports Centre, which is under the aegis of the Indian embassy. He is also known as an active sportsman and a social activist. According to Desa, he had made some preparations to go about his mission. “Being a longtime resident of the country helped me as I am familiar with the locations and roads. I visited the stadiums well in advance to understand the available parking slots and the easiest way to enter and exit the stadiums. My only worry was the possibility of a traffic jam in between, especially while coming back from Al Bayt Stadium. But I was fortunate to reach the stadium well on time for the 4pm match,” he explained.“It took me over 15 hours to complete the whole hopping mission. I avoided the designated parking facilities and parked my car a bit far away and walked to the stadiums. This way, I could avoid any delay at the parking facilities but had to walk more. It helped me realise my dream and reach all the four stadiums and watch all the matches in a single day,” he explained.Desa did not opt for any shorter route but took the longest one, starting from Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. He started with the 1pm match at Al Bayt Stadium where Croatia and Morocco played out a goalless draw, before heading to Khalifa International Stadium for the 4pm match to watch Japan stun Germany 2-1. After that, he drove to Al Thumama Stadium to watch Spain put seven goals past Costa Rica and then headed to Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium for the match between Belgium and Canada, which the former won 1-0.Desa said he would move to the exit of the stadium a few minutes before every match ended and would rush out before all others, forgoing the added-on time in most cases. “Then I would dart towards my car, parked far away from the stadium, and 'jumpstart' to my next destination. My drive from Al Bayt to Khalifa International Stadium was the longest and I barely managed to reach the stadium before the match. However, I could reach the other two stadiums well on time,” he recalled.Desa also pointed out that he deliberately took the longest route to highlight the compactness of the tournament. “At any other World Cup, the matches are played in different cities and to attend all the matches of a day is unthinkable. The compact nature of the Qatar World Cup is a great boon for football enthusiasts to attend more matches on the same day," he added.

Football fans from various countries at a Doha Metro station.
Doha Metro, a melting pot of cultures

The world has descended on Doha, as thousands of fans reach the country everyday bringing along various cultures and languages and the Doha Metro has taken the central stage of cultural exchange.With the Doha Metro being the major transportation option for the football fans and visitors to reach the stadiums as well as other major locations in the country, it has turned out to be a melting pot of cultures.At every Metro station, thousands of fans from various countries can be seen moving around, mingling together and going to various places as they start their daily routine from morning. Many of them come in groups and move along while many others could be singles or couples. Several of them exchange their phone numbers and make sure to meet every day at a given time and the metro stations are the main rendezvous point for them.Croatian fan Tomislav who reached alone a few days back said that he has made friends with many Qataris and other residents as well as several other nationalities. “This is my first time in Qatar. I met many Qataris who were very nice to me. They told me about the country and its heritage. I also met several tourists who have come here to support their teams. I met an American who has invited me for the next World Cup offering all the assistance for the visit. I am sure I will be visiting all the three countries hosting the Next World Cup in 2026,” he said.Hailing from the Croatian capital, Tomislav also noted that he was impressed by the culture of the host country which is very unique. “Being my first visit to Qatar, I am learning a lot about various customs in the country through frequent visits to the shops, museums and other culturally important locations which are very different from my country. This has been an eye opener and realisation for me,” he added.Cultural exchange is a major element of the metro travel itself. People from different countries travel in groups and they start greeting others in their own fashion. They also start singing and dancing in the metro and invite others also to join in their festivities. This continues as different nationals join the party and enjoying the interactions and festivities.Qatar residents also are happy to join the party and make sure that they make more international friends. This is also a learning experience for many fans who have attended previous editions of the World Cup. “As we are all moving together we learn more about other people, their countries and their traditions and culture. I find this experience very unique as I had travelled to Russia for the Word Cup in 2018. Since more people are moving together here, there are more interactions and therefore more cultural exchange,” added an Argentine fan.

Gulf Times
Fans turn Doha into a carnival spot

Doha literally has turned into an international carnival spot as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 fans and visitors from around the world are exploring every nook and corner of the city, savouring the great Arabian hospitality and friendship.Thousands can be seen roaming around the city, admiring the skyscrapers and scenic views while many others throng the cultural destinations as well as the exotic museums in and around the city.Fans in large numbers can be spotted swarming around the major traditional locations such as Souq Waqif, the Corniche, Katara - The Cultural Village among others.Individual fans as well as small groups could be seen celebrating the World Cup, singing and dancing all across the streets and other hot spots. Monday, a large group of Senegal team supporters who had just arrived from their country, gathered at Souq Waqif, greeting everyone with their traditional music and dancing ahead of their match against the Netherlands. Accompanied with drums and other percussion instruments, it was a treat to watch them performing in their traditional attire.What was more interesting was that among the onlookers of the performance, were a group of Dutch fans who had flown in a few days back to watch their team compete against Senegal. Enthused by the dancing, some of the Dutch fans too joined the party, making it a true symbol of football uniting the entire world.Elsewhere, the carnival atmosphere continued as fans in groups moving around and shouting support for their teams. Doha Metro is another favourite hangout for the fans as they move together from one place to another. As they get into the metro, they start singing in support of their teams in their own language, delighting everyone else in the cabin. The whole atmosphere is thrilling and cheerful and the merrymaking continues all through the day and beyond.With more fans expected to arrive in the coming days from around the globe, the city is expected to experience more entertainment and jovial scenes which could be all the more thrilling, lively and at times boisterous. The energetic and enthusiastic fans are sure to make life more colourful and lively with all the fun and frolic and making Doha- a truly world destination.

The First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford at the red hat installation. PICTURES: Thajudheen.
Wales minister launches his country's World Cup campaign with red hat installation

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, Sunday officially launched the World Cup campaign of his country in Qatar by showcasing a giant bucket hat installation near the Museum of Islamic Art.This is an important and momentous occasion for Wales as the country is qualifying for the World Cup final round after 64 years since its last appearance in1958.British ambassador Jonathan Wilks, Wales’ ‘Lleisiau Cymru’ ambassador, Colin Jackson, alongside Football Association of Wales (FAW) president Steve Williams, vice president Will Lloyd Williams, CEO Noel Mooney and ambassadors Ian Rush and Jess Fishlock were also in attendance at the launch.**media[842]**The larger-than-life bucket hat, an iconic symbol for Welsh football representing the team’s incredible progress in the game and its fans’ passion and spirit, was developed and designed in collaboration with the Football Association of Wales, to celebrate the momentous occasion for the nation.Drakeford said: “Back in 2016, our manager Chris Coleman challenged the squad and us as a nation to ‘Dare to Dream’ about what could happen at the European Championship. No one thought we’d get to the semi-final, but we did. That’s what’s great about football – anything can happen at the World Cup.”The launch of the installation kickstarts the Gŵyl Cymru Festival at the tournament, a programme of more than 200 events across Cymru and the world as part of a 10-day celebration of creativity to support Wales during the team’s campaign in Qatar.The programme will project Wales’ values and secure a positive legacy from the country’s first World Cup campaign in 64 years, highlighting the nation’s art, culture and music.Wales’ ‘Lleisiau Cymru’ ambassador Jackson said: “It was really good to be at the launch of the bucket hat today – it’s a little slice of Wales that will encourage people to investigate our nation. The support of our First Minister today was also fantastic as we aim to demonstrate the inclusive values of Wales.”Fishlock noted that it was a very proud moment to be at the launch of the Bucket hat. “Now is the time that the world gets to see our great nation, and we get to show who we are to the world,” he added.A Wales Cultural Programme in Doha, which coincides with the Gwyl Cymru festival of culture taking place in Wales and around the world, features cultural events at the UK Ambassador’s residence; Katara Cultural Village, and the UK Garden on The Corniche.The programme includes: Large-scale murals by Graffiti artist Peaceful Progress; DJ sets by Radio 1’s Katie Owen; Performances of Wales’ official anthem ‘Yma o Hyd’ (‘Still Here’) by Dafydd Iwan; Renditions from the Urdd Choir, from the largest national youth organisation; Performances by the Barry Horns, an award-winning stadium brass band for the FAW and Sage Todz, a Welsh rap, hip-hop and R&B artist will also perform at locations in Qatar.

Gianni Infantino
Generation Amazing officially announced a foundation

The Generation Amazing (GA) will be a foundation and continue to unlock human potential, announced HE Hassan al-Thawadi, Secretary-General of Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), at the opening ceremony of the Fourth Annual Youth Festival 2022 of GA yesterday.“Generation Amazing is now officially a foundation that will continue to empower and unlock human potential and will cement its role as a centre for youth excellence and leadership around the world for many years to come,” he explained.The inaugural ceremony of Festival 2022 was attended by HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad al-Thani, Vice-Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation; HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani; Gianni Infantino, president, FIFA, and a number of other dignitaries. “We have reached 1mn young people across the world since the inception of Generation Amazing, a promise and key goal we made during our bid. And as we look to the future as a foundation, we pledge to expand this reach and number even further. This time last year, Generation Amazing was proud to support the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to host the first match for the Afghan women’s team since their evacuation from Kabul delivering a coach, a coaching certification programme and providing a safe space for them to thrive. That is the essence of Generation Amazing,” al-Thawai explained.“Now, in 31 days, when we host the final match at Lusail Stadium and when the last ball is kicked and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 champion is crowned, that will be the final day of World Cup 2022. It will serve as a launch pad for Generation Amazing legacy. Your inspiring stories will continue to be written over the coming years and decades,” continued, the SC official.The youth festival is the first-ever sport for development and cultural exchange programme of its kind to take place ahead of a FIFA World Cup. More than 300 students selected from local and international schools to represent 32 countries, have travelled to Qatar to take part in a week-long festival comprising of football for development, workshops and activities.Speaking on the occasion, Infantino said that GA is not just programme but an amazing one. “Generation Amazing is exactly the kind of projects we want to see all over the world to be taken from Qatar. You are all an amazing generation, everyone of you from all over the world, from the 32 participating countries, as well as from other countries. You have already been part of the Generation Amazing programme from Brazil to Haiti to Lebanon to India to Philippines among others. There are many more countries, of course to come and to follow, to combine football, education, passion, future and hope,” he noted. Syrian American pianist and composer Malek Jandali delivered the keynote address at the event and famous British footballer David Beckham gave a video message. Several of the youth ambassadors of the GA programme presented their experiences that enabled them to be better individuals and help the communities in their respective countries. The programme also saw several performances by participating students.