DOHA • Fifa president Gianni Infantino on Wednesday praised Qatar for pushing ahead with 2022 World Cup preparations despite the coronavirus pandemic, while the rest of the world “stood still”.
On a visit to Doha, during which he got into a football kit to play a seven-a-side-match at the striking 60,000-capacity Al Bayt stadium designed to resemble a traditional Arab tent, the 50-year-old said he was “very pleased” with Qatar’s progress ahead of the tournament.
“Al Bayt Stadium is incredible: a true football stadium,” Infantino said in a Fifa statement.
“It has a real football feel and a local touch. The tented shape makes it truly unique, and the Arabic patterns in the roof are just beautiful. I am speechless.
“We have seen the plans, but when you see the reality, it is even more impressive,” he also said in the statement, which added that all eight venues will be completed “well in advance” of the event.
“Qatar has been able to continue to advance during the last six months while the world stood still – from infrastructure preparations to important developments such as the recent labour reforms.”
Qatar has made a series of reforms to its employment regulations since being selected to host the World Cup, which has required a vast programme of construction dependent on foreign workers.
One change to its labour laws saw the raising of the minimum wage by 25 per cent to 1,000 riyals (S$373) a month. However, rights campaigners say that widespread abuses persist.
The Gulf state will kick off the tournament at the Al Bayt Stadium, which takes its shape from the traditional tents used by nomadic people in the Gulf region.
The timing of the competition, due to be held in November and December next year, remains unchanged.
Work continued at 2022 sites this year but was slowed to allow virus containment measures to be observed.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS