Hotly Anticipated FIFA 2021 Arab Cup Ready to Kick Off in Doha
The 2021 Arab Cup Qatar kicks off today, November 30th, for the first time as a FIFA affiliated event. Over the next few weeks, Doha will come alive with football fans eager to watch their favourite African and Asian teams locked in a battle for the coveted Arab Cup. The matches themselves will be played out in six of Doha's 2022 World Cup stadiums, two of which, Al Bayt Stadium and Stadium 974, will be in use for the first time.
What is the Arab Cup?
The Arab Cup is a ‘new’ football tournament, under the administration of FIFA, open to Arab nations worldwide. The upcoming competition was launched in November 2020 and will be played out in Qatar, hosts of the 2022 World Cup, from November 30th to December 18th.
While pan-Arab football events have been held previously, none have had the backing of FIFA, and none have been consistently contested. The 2021 Arab Cup will be the first major worldwide Arab men's football competition since the last Arab Nations Cup, held in 2012. The Nations Cup has been sporadically hosted since 1963 - on nine occasions only with a maximum participation of 11 Arab countries.
The new tournament, which will see the region's best teams battle it out to become champions of the Arab states, is poised to begin a new era of competitive men’s football across the Arab nations. It will ramp up competitive opportunities between African and Asian teams and expose numerous squads to higher levels of competition against top-ranked teams such as Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, which should raise the level of football across the field. It will also provide greater exposure for players on a global stage, increasing their opportunities at home and abroad. And, possibly most significantly, it will be an opportunity to unite Arab nations.
The 2021 tournament is also being heralded as a precursor to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It will give the competition organisers Qatar a myriad of opportunities to test drive their operational plans, tournament infrastructure and associated facilities, and a chance for the Qatari national team to test their mettle against some top-class competition. The Arab Cup will also build on the region's growing excitement for the World Cup, which is now just one year away.
2021 Arab Cup Format
Twenty-three teams signed up to play in the 2021 Arab Cup. Qatar, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) qualified automatically for the tournament as the highest FIFA ranked Arab teams. Qualification was based on the April 2021 FIFA ranking, though Qatar also qualified as hosts. The remaining fourteen teams were whittled down to seven squads via a Group Stage contest. Those seven - Oman, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Mauritania, Palestine and Sudan - join the top nine teams in the Round of 16 starting today.
The sixteen teams who qualified have been split into four groups of four:
- United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
Each group will play a round-robin of matches, from November 30th to December 7th, to decide on the top two teams.
The eight winning teams from the Round of 16 will advance to the quarter-finals - to be played out over December 10th and 11th.
The four winning quarter-finalists go through to a semi-finals bout on December 15th to contest a place in the final and a chance to be crowned champions of the Arab footballing world.
The final will take place, as will the contest for third place, on December 18th - Qatar National Day.
Teams will contest the competition in six of Qatar's eight new World Cup Stadiums - Ahmad bin Ali, Al Bayt, Al Janoub, Al Thumama, Education City and Stadium 974 - experiencing the nation’s top-class facilities well before the whistle is blown to start the 2022 event.
Two of the stadiums, Al Bayt Stadium and Stadium 974, which will host two of the opening four matches, will be used for the first time since their completion.
Al Bayt Stadium, constructed to resemble and perform like a traditional Bedouin tent, will host the first day’s opening match between Qatar and Arab neighbour Bahrain. The stadium, located 46km north of Doha in Al Khor, has a 40,000 seat capacity and is the sixth World Cup stadium to be inaugurated prior to the 2022 event. The stadium will host five Arab Cup matches, including the final.
Stadium 974, built using 974 shipping containers to comprise the main body of the structure and operating as the first fully demountable stadium in FIFA World Cup history, will host the first day’s opening game between the UAE and Syria. The seventh 2022 World Cup stadium to be inaugurated, Stadium 974, is located on the coast near the Hammad International Airport and can seat 40,000 fans. During the Arab Cup, the stadium will accommodate six matches, including one semi-final game and the third-place decider.
Fans can purchase tickets for all Arab Cup tournament matches online via the official website, FIFA.com/tickets, or in person at the FIFA Venue Ticketing Centre at the Doha Exhibition Centre in West Bay. Tickets can be purchased until the end of the tournament and are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Tickets cost from QAR 25 to 90 for all matches, except the semi-final and finals. Semi-final tickets cost from QAR 45 to 195, and final tickets from QAR 60 to 245. Cash payments are not accepted.
Once tickets have been purchased, a mandatory Hay’ya Card, Fan ID for the tournament, will also need to be obtained. The Hay’ya Card can be applied for online via the website FAC21.qa or in person at the Exhibition Centre.
The smart-technology identification card is designed to serve as a means of identification, provide access to tournament stadiums in combination with a valid ticket, and serve as an entry permit to Qatar. Fans from abroad will receive an entry permit certificate, which must be printed to enter Qatar.
The Hay'ya Card also provides ticket holders with access to several services, i.e. transport, and benefits relating to sights and attractions and food and drink outlets.
All spectators entering the 2021 Arab Cup stadiums must be fully vaccinated with one of the vaccinations approved by Qatar's Ministry of Public Health - a list of approved vaccines can be found on the Ministry's website.
Unvaccinated children under the age of 12 must provide evidence of a negative PCR test within 48 hours or a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) within 24 hours before each match.
All visitors, including those travelling to Qatar for the tournament, must show their vaccination status via its smartphone Covid track and trace app, EHTERAZ, which can be downloaded via the Apple app store or Google play. Visitors to Qatar must pre-register the app before entering the country.
The app will also be required for public transport and other public services.
Doha Metro, Metro shuttle buses, Stadium Express buses and public buses are all available to transport fans to the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup stadiums across the tournament dates. And, the Hay'ya card entitles matchday ticket holders to unlimited free travel on the Metro, shuttle, express and public buses. However, taxi and private transports drop off points and park and ride services are also available.
Ahmad bin Ali Stadium can be reached via the Metro Green line to Al Riffa Station and a 10-minute walk to the venue. A Stadium Express bus stop and various parking points are available with 10-15 minutes walking times.
Al Bayt Stadium can be accessed via a Metro and Shuttle bus service. Fans can take the Red Line to Lusail Metro Station; a Shuttle bus from the Metro station to Al Khor drops guests a 10-minute walk away from the stadium. A Stadium Express bus stop is located a 10-minute walk from the venue entrance, and various parking points and a park and ride system are also available with 10-30 minutes walking times.
Al Janoub Stadium can be reached via Al Wakhra Metro Station, Red line, and a Shuttle Bus. A Stadium Express service is available, as are park and ride and parking facilities, all within a 10-minute walk of the stadium doors.
Al Thumama Stadium can be found a 20 minutes walk from the Shuttle bus stop that takes guests to and from the nearest Red line Metro station, Free Zone. A Stadium Express service drops passengers a 35-minute walk from the stadium, and parking facilities can also be utilised, with a 20-35 minute walking time.
Education City can be reached via the Education City Metro Station on the Green line. A 10-minute walk takes visitors to the doors. A Stadium Express bus stop is located a 20-minute walk from the venue. Parking facilities are also available, with 10-40 minute walking times. However, park and ride and tram services can shorten the walking distances.
Stadium 974 can be accessed from the Ras Abu Aboud Metro Station and a 10-minute walk. A Stadium Express service drops passengers a 5-minute walk from the stadium. Park and ride facilities similarly require a 5-minute walk to the stadium. Parking, with a 20-minute walk, is also available.
November 30th Matchday 1
The following matches are being held on Matchday 1:
|Match||Time (local time)||Location|
|Tunisia vs Mauritania(Group B)||Time (local time)13:00||LocationAhmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan|
|Iraq vs Oman(Group A)||Time (local time)16:00||LocationAl Janoub Stadium, Al Wakhra|
|Qatar vs Bahrain(Group A)||Time (local time)19:30||LocationAl Bayt Stadium, Al Khor|
|UAE vs Syria(Group B)||Time (local time)22:00||LocationStadium 974, Ras Abu Aboud|
For the full tournament match schedule, check out the Qatar2022 website.
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