Posted on September 11, 2015

Qatar was more passionate than ever about hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, said Nasser Al Khater, Assistant Secretary General of Tournament Operations at the Supr me Committee for Delivery & Legacy.

Speaking on a World Cup Legends Panel – sponsored by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) – at the Soccerex Global Convention in Manchester today, Al Khater said : "There is still a huge appetite for this World Cup. There has been criticism but that has only made people in Qatar more resolute and determined to host the best World Cup ever." "There has been intense criticism but we’re under no illusion that will continue for some time, as it did for other World Cups but the ferociousness of the criticism is making the local population resolute about this World Cup and how it can showcase the country. With every wave of criticism people become more determined to make this more successful than any other Worlds Cup," he added.

Al Khater said: "We’re already seeing the legacy of this tournament come to life which is a great thing. We have five different stadiums under construction, one of which will be completed in late 2016 and all of them with be completed with cooling technology." "We’ve received criticism on labour issues but it’s important to stress there have been zero fatalities or major incidents on any of our projects. We always said this World Cup would be a catalyst for development and it’s proving to be exactly that," he emphasized.

Think of Michael Owen and most people think of one thing. That goal against Argentina. The England striker was just a baby-faced 18-year-old when he introduced himself to the world with a moment of magic in the 1998 FIFA World in France. The sight of Owen racing through on goal, skipping past one Argentinian defender after another before finding the top corner is a moment he will never forget. It was a goal that put his name on the lips of every football fan around the world. He didn’t realize it at the time but that one moment, in that one tournament, laid the foundations for the rest of his career. 

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He said: "It was a great moment in my career. To do anything in a World Cup is special. The eyes of the world are on you. People in England had probably heard of me prior to that goal in France but as soon as you perform at a World Cup the rest of the world knows who you are." "That’s what I took from that tournament. It announced me to the rest of the world. When people talk about me for the first time or meet me the first thing they ask about is the goal against Argentina. It’s what I’m remembered for," he added. 

Owen stated: "If you ask any footballer out there what’s the one tournament you want to win, the World Cup will always be the one they will they say. You’re fortunate if you’re born in a country that produces good players with a good chance of winning trophies. Inevitably it’s pretty impossible for most players to win it but it is the biggest, the best and most prestigious tournament in the world and it has to always remain that way." 

One man who knows exactly what Qatar has to offer is former Nigeria and Bolton Wanderers play-maker Okocha. He spent one year in Doha with Qatar Sports Club and still has fond memories of the country. He reflected: "There is nothing better than learning different cultures or going to different places. I had the privilege of playing in Qatar for a year and loved the experience. People don’t know what it’s like there but they still find the opportunity to criticize. It’s a fantastic place. People have fears and I understand that because they don’t know any better." "But people didn’t know what to expect in South Africa and it turned out to be one of the best World Cups so far. Qatar will be the same. I’m excited to see it in the Middle East for the first time and how a big tournament is played in that region," he stated. 

For former Spain and Valencia star Mendieta – who starred in the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea – the criticism surrounding 2022 is normal. He claimed: "Every World Cup has been criticized. It’s a natural thing to happen in the life of every tournament. But when you listen to Qatar’s plans, the idea of having no flights and staying in one hotel is a great thing for players. I think that’s a huge attraction for a World Cup in Qatar. This is a great opportunity to go where the World Cup has never been. That’s the priority of football."