DOHA: The sixth FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 tournament venue will be inaugurated when Al Thumama Stadium hosts the Amir Cup final on October 22.
Qatar’s premier cup competition will bring together Al Rayyan and Al Sadd in a highly anticipated clash between two of the country’s biggest clubs.
During the build-up to the final – and yet another FIFA World Cup milestone – qatar2022.qa spoke to three Qatar Legacy Ambassadors to find out more about the significance of the competition.
Having played for several Qatari sides, including Al Sadd, Ahmad Khalil knows what the tournament means to the local football community. “Qatar’s football season is not complete without the Amir Cup,” said Khalil. “It’s a tournament that brings together teams from all tiers, which makes it a true national championship.”
“Every player in Qatar wants to make it to the final for a chance to shake hands with the Amir, and to be recognised on such a prestigious platform,” Khalil added.
This year, Al Thumama Stadium will host the 49th edition of the Amir Cup.
The 40,000-capacity venue – designed to resemble the ‘gahfiya’ head cap – is one of eight Qatar 2022 stadiums, and will host matches up to the quarter-finals stage during next year’s World Cup.
Ibrahim Khalfan, a member of the Qatar squad that made it to the final of the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1981, is looking forward to the atmosphere in the stands on the big day.
“For the past few years, fans have been treated to what has become almost an annual tradition – the inauguration of a Qatar 2022 stadium during the Amir Cup. The unique design of Al Thumama and the fact we are so close to the World Cup will make this game even more exciting,” said Khalfan.
“Football fans all over Qatar look forward to the Amir Cup every year, but having two teams with such pedigree compete in the final this year will build the anticipation even further ahead of kick-off,” added Khalfan.
Dubbed the “Qatar Classico”, the match-up between Al Rayyan and Al Sadd will see a number of prominent players take to the pitch. Both teams have a combined 23 titles between them, and enjoy tremendous support across the country.
Al Sadd remain the only Qatari team to have won the AFC Champions League, with the first continental title coming in 1989 when Khalid Salman free-kick helped them beat Iraqi side Al Rasheed in the final.
Salman said: “Fans will be treated to a beautiful match, with top class players featuring in both sides. Al Sadd boast a lot of the best players from the Qatar national team, a squad that in the last few years has been crowned champions of Asia and have put in a good showing in the Copa America and the Gold Cup.”
Leading Qatar internationals in the Al Sadd squad include goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb, midfielders Hassan Al Haydos and Akram Afif, and left-back Abdulkarim Hassan, who was named Asian Footballer of the Year in 2018.
“Al Sadd also have a number of international stars, like Baghdad Bounedjah, former Arsenal player Santi Cazorla and Andre Ayew, who previously played in the Premier League,” Salman added.
Salman went on to pick out which players fans should keep an eye on in the Al Rayyan line-up.
“Al Rayyan are buzzing with the arrivals of James Rodriguez and Steven Nzonzi, who will add extra firepower to a team that already boasts the likes of Algerian forward Yacine Brahimi.”
Off the pitch, both clubs are coached by FIFA World Cup winners.
Al Rayyan coach Laurent Blanc lifted the trophy with France in 1998, while Al Sadd boss Xavi Hernandez helped Spain to glory in 2010.
As for the unique design of the stadium, all three ambassadors commented on the architectural masterpiece, which was designed by Qatari architect Ibrahim M. Jaidah.
“Fans will be delighted to see that the stadium pays tribute to a piece of clothing that is worn throughout the Arab world. It will make everyone feel like they are a part of it,” said Khalfan.
Salman agreed, saying the design has universal appeal and will “resonate in the hearts and minds of everyone in the Arab world”.
Khalil said: “The design is an important cultural marker for fans visiting Qatar in 2022. It invites them to learn more about the region’s culture. It will be great to see them make the connection between the stadium’s design and the gahfiyas worn by men and boys in the stands.”
Fans interested in attending the Amir Cup Final and the inauguration of Al Thumama Stadium on Friday, 22 October can apply for their Fan ID through http://ac21.qa.