FIFA President Gianni Infantino has thrown his weight behind the 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar amid the global Covid-19 pandemic that continues to restrict fans from completely thronging stadiums around the world.
Infantino believes that Qatar have already proven their capability in battling the pandemic, having held events like the Club World Cup earlier this year with 30 per cent attendance. The Swiss-Italian further suggested that the 2022 edition will be the best-ever World Cup.
"We will see the best World Cup ever in November, December 2022 in Qatar. The best World Cup ever means a World Cup with full stadiums. I am 100 per cent sure about that," Infantino said in a media interaction after the FIFA Council meeting last week.
"I'm 100 per cent sure about that because we have already witnessed in one of the most difficult periods, how we could organise the Club World Cup in Qatar with 30 percent occupancy of stadiums in a healthy and safe environment."
He further explained that FIFA are in constant touch with the Qatar Government and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) and have been impressed by the facilities on offer in the Middle-East nation.
"I have been meeting the Minister of Health (Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari), His Highness the Emir (Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani), as well with the Prime Minister (Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz al-Thani). We've been discussing these topics and what is implemented in Qatar is absolutely state of the art."
Adding the fact that vaccination drives have begun in many countries, Infantino is positive about seeing an end to the pandemic well before the 2022 World Cup.
"Looking forward, even more so, the vaccination has just started around the world. I was told around a week ago that there are around two and a half billion vaccines available. Now we are around seven or eight billion people in the world. Maybe not everyone wants to be vaccinated but hopefully we understand that the vaccines are quite efficient to over 95 per cent. So it is a question of a few months until everyone will have the opportunity to get vaccinated and we get rid of this Covid once and hopefully for all."
"But I'm confident from speaking to many government officials in Qatar and World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tederos (Director-General of the WHO Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus) and his team, that thanks to the vaccines, everything will be in order and the World Cup will be fantastic.
He also took the opportunity to praise Qatar's readiness and preparation for the quadrennial global extravaganza despite having had to tackle an unprecedented pandemic. Qatar's meticulous planning has meant that the work on the 2022 World Cup projects have not suffered despite being slowed down due to the pandemic.
All the projects are on time and they have already thrown open four of eight planned venues for the tournament (four of them have been inaugurated, another one is ready and waiting to be inaugurated, 80 per cent work has been completed on the other three and 41 training pitches are already completed).
"And allow me just to add one more thing that is not highlighted often enough - In spite of the Covid crisis, since one year where everything stood still, the work has been going on in Qatar. Not only with respect to the stadiums, but also more generally the whole infrastructure. And that's quite amazing because we have virtually no delays in the different projects which is again an incredible achievement.
"And now since more than 20-25 years in this world observing tournaments and events, I've never seen a country being so ready as Qatar more than one year in advance. That's why I'm also confident that everyone who will come to Qatar will come to the whole Gulf region - because you can stay a few days here, a few days there - as well.
"They will witness a welcoming place and a great World Cup."