*Spectators will be treated to a whole host of activities including music, dance and theatre shows

The preparations for the spectacular 24th Arabian Gulf Cup are in full swing with as many as 900 personnel and 500 volunteers getting ready to host thousands of football fans from across the region.

“We are all geared up for the Gulf Cup which means a lot to the people of the region and its fans. It is a very important tournament for all Qataris. We welcome all the participating countries for the tournament,” Local Organising Committee (LOC) Director of Marketing Khalid al-Kuwari said, addressing a press conference at the state-of-the-art Khalifa International Stadium on Thursday.

The tournament will be a fine show of culture, entertainment and football as the spectators will be treated to a whole host of activities with performers including music, dance, theatre shows from different communities. Besides it will also be an opportunity to enjoy a fun time with family and friends at the fan zones.

“We have 900 personnel and 500 volunteers ready to make fans’ Gulf Cup journey a memorable one. I appeal to all the Qatar fans as well as other participating countries’ fans to come and support their players in a big way,” he said.

The event will be held in Doha from November 26 to December 8 at the Khalifa International Stadium, a 40,000 capacity air-conditioned venue in the Qatari capital, Doha, and the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium, Duhail. This is the fourth time Qatar will be hosting the regional event.

Defending champions Oman are in Group B where they will be joined by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain in the group stages. Asian Champions and hosts Qatar are drawn against the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen and Iraq in Group A. In 2017, Oman won its second title by beating the UAE in the final on penalties.

Excitement has been building up for tournament as fans have been racing to buy tickets to watch their favourite teams with 35,000 tickets are already sold.

“We have sold 35,000 tickets till now for all the matches. Tickets are still available at Souq Waqif, Katara, Villaggio, Mall of Qatar, Doha Festival City and online. I urge fans to buy tickets as soon as possible to avoid last-minute rush. There will be lots of activities at both the stadiums and I am sure fans will enjoy the atmosphere around the tournament,” he said.

Al-Kuwari feels the tour of Sodeifi, the mascot of the Cup, has marked an exciting milestone in the preparations to host one of the most anticipated footballing events in the region.

“Our marketing campaign started with the launch of the mascot and slogan. Sodeifi, apart from visiting malls and schools in Qatar, has also visited Oman and Kuwait, and it has ignited the country’s passion and excitement for the game apart from generating a marketing buzz,” al-Kuwari said.

About the opening ceremony, al-Kuwari said the details will be given later. “Right now I can say there will be pre-match activities before every game at both the stadiums.”

The tournament operations are a mock trial for the FIFA World Cup 2022 operations.

“This is the first time that Gulf Cup will be played at FIFA World Cup venues — the Khalifa International Stadium and Duhail Stadium. So we are trying to run operations for this tournament, which is very close to our hearts as Qataris and as Gulf nations, like a drill for the World Cup. People who want to get the feel of the 2022 World Cup venues can come and attend the matches during the Gulf Cup,” LOC Director of Venue Operations and Overlays Jassim al-Jassim said.

On pre-event activities, he said: “The activities will start with the gate opening at 4.30pm. I promise everyone it will be very nice and fun activities inside the stadium.”

He also urged fans to use the Metro to avoid traffic chaos during the tournament. “We have the facility of Metro Gold Line, which includes Sports City station. By using Metro, fans can avoid traffic jam and parking issues,” al-Jassim said.

Director of Culture and Arts Department at Ministry of Culture and Sports Hamad Mohamed al-Zakiba, stadium traffic leaders First Lt Ali Rashid al-Ateeq and First Lt Salem Mubarak al-Buainain were also present during the press conference.

Commenting on parking facilities, al-Ateeq said: “I can assure you we have enough parking slots – for 10,000 vehicles. Spectators can use bar code on their tickets to locate their designated parking slot. I appeal the fans to reach before time to avoid traffic jam.”

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