Posted on March 02, 2012

"I think there is a lack of understanding and lots of people prejudge the Arab world. There is a lot of ignorance. Once people finally come and visit your country and see what you plan and what you do, they will slowly calm down,” considers Walter De Gregorio (pictured), Director Communications & Public Affairs, FIFA, who was in Doha on a three-day visit to discuss a wide range of subjects relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar.

Being in the communication industry and a former media person, Gregorio is well aware of the repercussions that Qatar went through and continues to deal with having won the bid piping some of the bigwigs. He feels Qatar will have to face the challenges till they get over with the mega-event.

“There is lot of envy around you, since you guys won and others lost. They are not happy and I’m not attacking my European colleagues. The main problem in history is ignorance. The world doesn’t know the culture of the region. If you see history, foreigners are always seen as a threat because you don’t know them; you are ignorant. When you talk to them, you know he’s one among you and they share the same problem that you do. And as you said, if somebody asked, ‘Does a single grass grow in Qatar?’ I would say ‘Come here and see Aspire’. Then he will shut up for the rest of his life,” said Gregorio.

Reacting to speculations of change of dates from a summer World Cup to winter, Gregorio asserted that FIFA will proceed as per the way the world cup was awarded to Qatar. “As far as FIFA is concerned, the World Cup would be held in summer. That is how Qatar won the event and it stands that way. But if there is any pressure from the football community worldwide against it, then FIFA is always ready for any discussions. For the moment there wouldn’t be any change.”

He added, “There is no rethinking on the decision taken that Qatar would be the host nation. No question about any reconsideration, though the media keeps contemplating otherwise. I’m not an engineer but I know Qatar can develop systems to cool the stadium so I don’t think there should be any problem. ‘Why not winter? Why summer?’ These questions will arise till you finish the mega event. You have to think that it is part of the game.”

Qatar Airways Network

Logistically, many consider Qatar to be too small a country to host the World Cup but, Delia Fischer, FIFA’s Deputy Head of Media and Public Relations, feels the concept in itself is “interesting”.

“With the distance between venues, just 100km, it is an opportunity for fans to watch more matches. Good opportunity for the media too. However, the challenge is with limited capacity in the stadiums, will everybody get the tickets? Qatar fulfilled all the requirements for the bid; that’s what matters, size doesn’t. What Qatar has visualised and will be achieving is important. Now, it just about concentrating on the management aspect of it and it’s also a great opportunity for Qatar to grow and improve their national team. You have already got a boost by qualifying for the next round of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.”

Fischer feels the perception of the West towards the region will change with time. “When it was South Africa, I remember people saying to me ‘How can you go there? It’s so dangerous.’ Now the whole view has changed. When Qatar was bidding for the World Cup, they also wanted to do that — Reach out to the World utilising the platform of football World Cup.”

So should Qatar promote itself? Gregorio opined, “Qatar should keep promoting itself, however keeping in mind that they are third in line; there is Brazil and Russia ahead of you. As far as Qatar’s communication and set up is concerned, it’s extremely professional. In all the sectors, Qatar has been top quality. I saw the presentation on the stadiums and I’m pleased that they are on a modular system; a lot of thought and engineering behind it. Qatar is very much ready.”

Commenting on the visit, Hassan al-Thawadi (Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee – Secretary General) said: “We are pleased to have held our first working meetings this week in Qatar with our counterparts from FIFA. There is no doubt in my mind that the discussions and presentations held this week were of mutual benefit in terms of aligning our visions for the journey toward 2022.  We have always insisted upon the importance of taking the time to ensure the proper foundations are in place for the next ten years. After our meetings this week with FIFA and our appointment of our delivery partner early last month, we believe we are on the right track.”

source: Gulf Times