The preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are in full swing, with work on most of the projects nearing completion.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the organisation responsible for delivering the infrastructure for the global event, has already inaugurated three stadiums with work progressing fast on the remaining five facilities.
Khalifa International stadium, Al Janoub stadium and the Education City stadium have already been thrown open, taking the world by awe. The cutting-edge technology and innovation applied at these venues have been breathtaking to say the least.
Be it the gamechanging 'Advanced Cooling Technology' that has blown away concerns of the weather in Qatar or be it the aesthetic design of these facilities, the excitement over the 2022 World Cup has increased manifold in all quarters.
One person who has been absolutely blown away by these facilities is South Korean attacking midfielder Nam Tae-hee. The 29-year-old has been playing professionally in Qatar since 2012 and has played in all three completed World Cup venues.
In fact, the Al Sadd midfielder has scored in two of those stadiums - the Al Janoub and Khalifa International.
"It has been an amazing experience to play in all three completed World Cup stadiums. Especially the pitches and the air-conditioning were very good," he told Goal.
Tae-hee went on to praise the cooling tech at the stadiums, noting how the heat was not even a minor issue when he played in the stadiums. He played at the Al Janoub stadium in August 2019 in the AFC Champions League Round of 16 stage against Al Duhail SC. Earlier this month, he played at the Education City stadium as well. He also featured in the 2018 Emir Cup final at the Khalifa international stadium.
"In fact, I felt cold inside the stadium, even though it is hot in Qatar during August and in September. When you play and sweat, and then come to sit on the bench you feel cold. In the game everything is perfect."
Interestingly, the 2020 AFC Champions League West Asia groups are set to resume in Qatar with the matches set to be hosted by these three stadiums.
Tae-hee has been in Qatar for almost nine years now and has seen first-hand how football has grown in the West Asian nation. He feels the level of competition in the domestic leagues has increased steadily and that has resulted in Qatar winning the 2019 AFC Asian Cup which established them as one of the giants of the continent.
The former Al Duhail SC star highlighted the work of Aspire Academy in moulding the team that won the Asian Cup. He feels a dedicated vision and plan from the Qatar Football Academy (QFA) has played a huge part in the Maroons' rise.
"Everything has changed in Qatar for the better in the last decade or so. The level of football and the players have improved a lot and the 2019 Asian Cup success is a testimony to it.
"Qatar were not lucky as many perceived but it was a result of hard work and planning. They have the Aspire Academy and they also sent players to play in Europe. Many young Qatari players are coming up and they are very good.
"Winning a game (in the QSL) has become very difficult. The teams have become more competitive and there are no easy games," he added.
Tae-hee, who made his professional debut in France with Valenciennes FC, has 46 international caps and has been involved in South Korea's 2022 World Cup qualifiers. He hopes to be a part of the final squad that qualifies for the 2022 World Cup, given that he gets to play for his home country in football's greatest tournament at his adopted home.
"I feel more like home in Qatar than in Korea. I don't want to miss this World Cup. It is my dream to play in the upcoming World Cup in Qatar."
He also showered praises on Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min, terming him the best Asian player in the world right now.
"Son is one of the best players in the world and is the best in Asia. He is playing amazing football at Tottenham. We are proud of him.
"I think the national team has to play better. We have to push ourselves to get better and give everything on the pitch. We are lucky to have Son."