Stadium Inauguration Moves Qatar One Step Closer to World Cup
Friday 22nd October 2021 saw two noteworthy events taking place in Qatar. The final of Qatar's most prestigious annual football tournament, the Amir Cup and the inauguration of the nation's sixth completed FIFA 2022 World Cup stadium, Al Thumama Stadium.
The enthusiasm surrounding the latest stadium inauguration was palpable. Thousands of football fans and those keen to celebrate the stadium's opening flocked to the Al Thumama Stadium to watch the match and take their first peek at the hotly anticipated structure. Four years in the making, the people of Qatar have watched the stadium being constructed from the ground up, its evocative shape slowly taking place. Indeed, the stadium's design is particularly emotive for the people of Qatar and the Arab world. Qatari architect, Ibrahim M. Jaidah, based the stadium design on the 'gahfiya' - a woven cap worn by men across the Middle East. Young boys may wear the gahfiya on its own. However, when boys reach adulthood and independence, the cap is worn as a base for the 'gutra', a loose headdress held in place by a black rope called an 'agal'. The gahfiya, therefore, is a symbol of independence and is part of a culture and tradition that spans the Arab world. And, on Friday, football fans and locals excited to see inside the stadium for the first time had their opportunity.
The inauguration was accompanied by pomp and ceremony both inside and outside the stadium, before and after the match. On their arrival at the stadium precinct, fans were treated to traditional live music and Qatari folk dancing, known as ‘Ardha’, and entertainment in the form of stilt walkers and mascots. Once inside, the opening ceremony kicked off the evening with a host of music, choreographed performances with local traditionally dressed children, light displays and fireworks. And, following the football final, the closing ceremony delighted fans with an even more spectacular fireworks finale that lit up the night sky around the stadium.
The action on the pitch only served to heighten the buzz in the stands, which, following twenty months of lockdowns and restrictions, were filled with thousands of spectators (vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from the illness). Seventeen-time winner of the tournament, Al-Sadd FC battled against arch-rival and six-time winner, Al-Rayyan FC for the 2021 Amir Cup - the trophy awarded to the winners of Qatar's biggest annual football cup competition involving all of the nation's first and second division teams. The match itself was a close-run thing. A deadlock between the squads was only broken by a 44th minute converted penalty from one of Al-Rayyan's newest recruits, Yacine Brahimi. Al-Rayyan were, however, only in the lead for fourteen minutes. Al-Sadd came from behind to equalise with a penalty shot on target from Santi Cazorla in the 58th. At full-time, with the score one all, the game went to penalties. With four penalties each, a superb save by Al-Sadd and the Qatar National Team's goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb changed the course of the match. Al-Sadd's Woo Young-Jung lined up for the next shot, which he powered to the back of the net, giving his team the final 5-4 winning score. The victory gave Al-Sadd its eighteenth Amir Cup title and their coach and ex-professional footballer for Spain and Barcelona, Xavi Hernandez, his seventh title with the club.
With the Amir Cup in Al-Sadd's hands for 2021 and Qatar's fifth FIFA stadium inaugurated under the watchful gaze of Qatar's Amir, His Highness Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, Qatar are well on their way to being match-fit for the 2022 tournament. This latest milestone sees the country's World Cup projects now at 98% complete. Only two stadiums are left to finish, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium and the biggest venue with a capacity of 80,000, Lusail Iconic Stadium. Khalifa International Stadium was completed and inaugurated in 2017, Al Janoub Stadium in 2019, Education City Stadium and Ahmad bin Ali Stadium were completed and inaugurated in 2020 - mid-COVID crisis. Al Bayt Stadium and Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will be inaugurated at the upcoming FIFA 2021 Arab Cup in November/December 2021. Quite rightly, Qatar is proud of its achievements, particularly this latest accomplishment, the first-ever FIFA stadium design by a Qatari architect.
Al Thumama Stadium
The completion and inauguration of the Al Thumama Stadium is a considerable achievement on the road to the FIFA 2022 World Cup, the first in the Middle East and the Arab world. With just over one year until kick-off, Qatar has now completed six of its eight World Cup stadiums - no mean feat considering all but one stadium was built from scratch, and four, to date, have been completed during the COVID-19 crisis.
Inspired by traditional Middle Eastern men’s headwear, the stadium was designed to reflect and honour both Qatari and Arab culture. Its design has already been lauded as an iconic landmark of the future. Indeed, the arena's unique design was granted an Architectural Review ‘Future Project’ Award in 2018 for its innovative and outstanding architecture.
Al Thumama Stadium, named after the peaceful residential area where the grounds are located, is a 40,000 seat venue close to both the heart of Doha and Qatar's international airport.
Technology and Environment
While the central theme of the stadium's design was Arab culture and tradition, the venue was also designed with the future in mind. The new state-of-the-art construction uses innovative sustainable technologies, including a solar-powered cooling system specifically designed for the new stadium, irrigation systems that use recycled water, and energy-efficient and water-conserving fittings and fixtures. The stadium is also controlled via intelligent technologies that optimise operations.
2022 World Cup
The stadium will be used for Group Stage matches to the Quarter-Finals during the 2022 World Cup.
Following the completion of the 2022 World Cup, Al Thumama will be repurposed to suit the needs of the country and the local community. The arena will be reduced to 20,000 seats to serve local and national sporting events - the removed infrastructure will be donated to countries in need of sporting facilities. The surrounding complex will be transformed into a community sports hub. And, as a novel addition, a boutique hotel will be built in the upper stands overlooking the pitch.
Getting There and Away
At only 18km from the heart of Doha city and a short drive from Hamad International Airport, Al Thumama Stadium is one of the most accessible stadiums for visitors to reach. Visitors can travel to the stadium via Qatar's Metro on the Red Line, by car, bus or taxi. For people travelling by Metro, the stadium is a short walk, or bus shuttle, through the lovely residential area of Al Thumama.
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