Sports

FIFA World Cup 2022: Qatar inaugurates Al Wakrah Stadium


Qatar inaugurated the first of seven new World Cup 2022 stadiums on Thursday, just weeks before a crucial FIFA summit will decide whether to expand the tournament and potentially push it beyond the tiny Gulf state's borders to accommodate a larger format.


Fans packed into the Al Wakrah stadium, a 40,000 seat venue made to resemble the sail of a dhow, or traditional wooden sailboat, to cheer on Qatari teams playing in the final of the Emir Cup, a local tournament for the country's club sides.


The inauguration comes as soccer's world governing body FIFA floats a plan to expand the next World Cup to 48 teams from 32, which could require a last-minute co-host despite a protracted dispute between Qatar and some of its neighbours, bans on alcohol and a lack of facilities restricting likely candidates.


Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a political and trade boycott on Qatar since mid-2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism, which Doha denies.


That rift has strained efforts by FIFA President Gianni Infantino to push for a suitable Word Cup co-host even as qualifying matches begin early next month.


Qatar has pushed ahead with an ambitious scale-up of its infrastructure ahead of 2022 that includes $6-8 billion on stadiums and sporting facilities, part of efforts to use the tournament to diversify its energy economy and project itself on to the world stage through sport.






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