The tournament is expected to unite millions of football fans globally.
The FIFA Arab Cup 2021 Qatar will feature 22 national teams from Asia and Africa and will kick off December next year, FIFA President Gianni Infantino confirmed.
“Qatar looks forward to welcoming 22 Arab national teams and their fans, and giving them the opportunity to be one of the select teams that will experience what Qatar has prepared to host the FIFA World Cup,” said Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al Thani, President of the Qatar Football Association [QFA].
During his visit to Qatar last month, Infantino praised Qatar’s preparation for the World Cup, highlighting that he expects the FIFA Arab Cup to unite millions of fans from all the Arab region.
In his recent visit, he added that it is a great opportunity for teams to play in the World Cup 2020 stadiums and that FIFA is “looking forward to seeing the region’s best teams battle it out to see which nation will become champion.”
“Through football, this tournament will unite over 450 million people from across the region, and we are confident that the FIFA Arab Cup will help to build excitement across the region as we edge ever nearer to hosting the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world in 2022,” Infantino said during a visit to Lusail Stadium, which will host the world cup final.
Teams from Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen will play in the tournament, uniting almost all Arab countries under the umbrella of sports.
“Fans from across the region will be treated to the same world-class experience that awaits fans from around the world when they flock to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup in 2022,” added the QFA president.
“We welcome our friends from the Middle East and the Arab world to join us in what will be an important milestone and a final test of our preparations, only one year away from us hosting the first FIFA World Cup in the region,”
A total of 32 games held over 18 days will see 16 teams eventually take part in the final stage and split into four groups. The top two from each group will qualify for the quarter finals.
The tournament is set to take place during the same time slot as the FIFA World Cup, which is seen as a vital opportunity to test operations and facilities ahead of Qatar 2022.
The finals of both the FIFA Arab Cup and FIFA World Cup will take place exactly one year apart – each on 18 December, marked during Qatar National Day.
FIFA World Cup and geopolitics:
With the FIFA World Cup 2022 kicking off in less than two years, concerns have been raised over whether fans of neighbouring countries will be able to attend the matches in Qatar amid the ongoing blockade.
Since 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed an illegal land, air and sea blockade on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.
Doha has vehemently denied the charges and has accused the Quartet of attempting to breach its sovereignty.
Despite this, Qatar has on several occasions stressed that the World Cup is for the entire Arab world and confirmed fans from all countries are welcome. Infantino also said he wants everyone to celebrate the Qatar World Cup.
“Of course, if there are many obstacles for people traveling from the region, we have to look at it. In this region, there are millions of people and all of them should be able to attend and celebrate the largest football event in the world,” he said.
“The World Cup is coming to the Arab world. And we want everyone in the region to be able to share this experience and let us emphasise that politics should remain in its place, far from sports. And I would personally, of course, do whatever I can and even more to convince everyone that we have to celebrate this World Cup.
“The politics and other issues will hopefully sort themselves out. And what do people want? It is to celebrate this tournament,” he added
According to the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, at least 1.5 million fans from around the world are expected to visit Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022, highlighting the importance of health and safety for visitors and local residents.
For the first time ever, the close proximity of the world cup stadiums will allow fans to attend multiple matches a day with a minimal travelling distance.