ACL gives Australia a taste of Qatar 2022 World Cup

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The General Secretary of the Qatar Football Association has told The World Game that the country's hosting of the AFC Champions League has given Australia's players an early insight into what is to come at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

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The West Asian nation stepped in to stage all the games upon the resumption of the coronavirus-affected tournament and has won praise for its handling of a difficult situation with teams from all over the continent arriving in Doha.

“The tournament has been a great success so far in terms of preparation and delivery," Mansoor Al-Ansari told The World Game.

“We have worked extremely hard to make sure we organised a safe tournament for all of the players, coaches and staff involved.”

By the time Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC arrived in Doha in November, the process was smoother thanks to the experience of hosting West Asian teams in September and October and, just 11 days from the final, there have been no issues.

“There were lessons to be learned from the West Zone matches and we’ve put that into practice during this phase," Al-Ansari added.

"We’ll continue taking those precautions to keep everyone safe, right up until the final on December 19.”

For those Australian, Japanese, South Korean, Thai and Chinese players who made it to Qatar, this AFC Champions League could not be better preparation for the temperatures and weather conditions.

The World Cup will also take place in November and December with highs usually around the mid to late twenties and lows in the late teens.

“Our feedback so far is that it’s been a good experience for the players and coaches involved,” Al-Ansari said.

“It’s been a great chance for Qatar to demonstrate some of the facilities which will be used during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It’s been a great opportunity to showcase Qatar’s training facilities, as well as demonstrate the cooling technology used in our stadiums.”

Melbourne and Perth both played at the Education City Stadium, a 45,000 capacity stadium that was built for the World Cup and opened in June.

Sydney appeared at the Al Janoub Stadium, opened in May last year. Both feature air-conditioning and officials from FC Seoul and Suwon Bluewings told The World Game that the cooling technology makes a difference on the pitch and in the stands.

The arenas have been well-reviewed by the players.

"The matches that I have played in the 2022 World Cup stadium [Education City Stadium] have given me a unique experience,” FC Tokyo’s Kensuke Nagai said.

“I hope I can continue to play well in the World Cup qualifiers and get selected in the national team in 2022. If so, I will definitely pass on my insights to my teammates."

Coaches have been pleased with the lack of travel needed in the tiny country.

“In a centralised hosting model such as this, we are saved from the stress of travelling,” Tokyo boss Kenta Hasegawa said.

“In the AFC Champions League traditional home-and-away format, for example, we have to travel to Australia which is a 10-hour journey. This is not needed in the centralised format which we are having now.”

Staging a major international competition at short notice has also helped officials on the ground in Qatar and bodes well for the World Cup.

“The presence of this large number of teams meant that the Local Organising Committee had to keep four stadiums with state-of-the-art cooling technology ready and the final selection of the four venues was made in coordination with the AFC,” Abdullah Al-Saai, Director of the Competitions Department at the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the AFC Asian Champions League, East Zone matches, said.

“Such events undoubtedly refine and develop young people, and also, it helps us gain experience.”