Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah opens to fanfare
May 17 2019 03:38 AM
Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah opens to fanfare
Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah opens to fanfare

Agencies Doha

Qatar inaugurated its first purpose-built stadium for the 2022 World Cup, staging the prestigious Amir Cup final in the 40,000-capacity Al Janoub (South) Stadium at Al-Wakrah.

The stadium, designed by late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid and located south of Doha, erupted into cheers as Amir Cup finalists Al Sadd and Al Duhail ran onto the pitch.

There were some traffic jams and tight security checks as the ground, which was nearly full for the prestigious fixture, began to fill ahead of kick-off.

His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani tweeted on his verified account ahead of kick-off that the ground's name would be changed to 'Al Janoub Stadium' meaning 'stadium of the south'.

"I've travelled the world and I've been to stadiums in different cities including the UK," said Yousef al-Jaber, a 35-year-old oil company research director in Doha.

"Finally I was able to go to one in Qatar that is world-class," added the Chelsea fan who watched the game with his wife and two sons.

"It's a one of a kind, it's a futuristic design. Al Wakrah is a coastal city and the architecture is inspired by that."

The venue's distinctive retractable roof - meant to resemble the sails of a traditional dhow fishing boat - is made of 1,400 pieces.

It was plunged into darkness for the pre-match show and performers assembled around a giant illuminated inflatable pearl on the centre of the manicured pitch.

A video describing Qatar's history as a pearling station played on the ground's two big screens.

The pearl then slowly transformed into a representation of the Amir Cup trophy before a 150-strong marching band serenaded the stadium.

Former Dutch international Ruud Gullit, who attended the ground's maiden game, called it "a beautiful stadium".

"You go on the pitch and you want to play," said the former captain of the Netherlands side that won the European Championship in 1988.

"The design is fantastic, and of course there's the air conditioning."

Asked about the stadium's multi-million dollar price tag, spectator Sunil Moorkanat, 52, said "it is worth it".

"It's the whole infrastructure you have to look at. The ambience is fantastic and all the amenities," added the engineer from India who has been living in Qatar for six years.

Officials had promised that the stadium would be "one of the loudest stadiums" in the world because of its design.

Groups of fans, many of whom wore pristine white Qatari thobes, drummed and sang as Al Sadd held Al Duhail to a tense 1-1 stalemate at half-time.

Of the eight stadiums Qatar is building or refurbishing for 2022, Khalifa International is already open and will host this year's World Athletics Championships.

Al Janoub, 15km south of Doha, will be used in the World Cup for fixtures up to and including quarter-finals.

The stadium was one of Hadid's last major designs before her death in March 2016, aged 65.

"Hadid would have loved to be here - but her spirit is," added al-Jaber, the spectator.

Gianni Infantino, president of world governing body FIFA, was among the dignitaries present on the occasion.

All eight stadiums to be used in the tournament will have air conditioning to regulate the temperature on the pitch and in the stands, even though the World Cup has been moved to the cooler months of November and December.

The temperature inside Al Janoub was 10 degrees lower than the 29 Celsius outside.



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