(MENAFN - Gulf Times) FIFA president Gianni Infantino has described the Al Janoub Stadium, which opened on Thursday night, as 'extraordinary.
The world football boss along with secretary general Fatima Samoura attended the Amir Cup final at the Zaha Hadid designed facility in Al Wakrah and was delighted with Qatar's progress as the country builds towards the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
'The stadium is extraordinary, said Infantino.'I was here seven months ago during the final stages of construction. I am delighted to see how beautiful and functional it is, but I am not surprised, he added.
Infantino praised Qatar's commitment to have all facilities ready much ahead of the big event.
'Qatar is working very hard to excel when it comes to every aspect of the tournament. Today, we have seen even more proof of their capability and commitment, and we will keep working side by side towards all other milestones that will come our way until 2022.
The match also took on added significance as Xavi Hernandez, who has played for Al Sadd since 2015, recently announced that he would retire at the end of the season.
'Xavi is among the greatest midfielders I have seen. His achievements with Barcelona and Spain place him in a very select group of absolutely legendary players. Over the past few years here in Doha, his leadership has become even more evident as he has supported the younger players and even predicted that Qatar would win the AFC Asian Cup when few believed that was possible, the world said the Swiss.
'We couldn't be happier with having him in the next FIFA World Cup host country, inspiring people and contributing towards Qatar's goal to succeed both on and off the pitch, added Infantino.
With three-and-a-half years still to go before the FIFA World Cup kicks off, Qatar can be proud of having already delivered two of the eight stadiums proposed to host the tournament.
While the Khalifa International Stadium was built in the 1970s and re-opened after renovation in 2017, Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah City is the first brand-new Qatar 2022 venue to be completed from scratch.
'This venue will wow football fans flocking to Qatar in 2022, and the fact that such an astonishing project has been designed by an Arab woman makes it absolutely unique. Besides offering a beautiful and modern stage for footballers to shine, Al Janoub will also inspire girls across the region to dream big, work hard and achieve great things, said FIFA secretary general Samoura referring to the work of late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.
The Al Janoub Stadium is set to host matches up to and including the Qatar 2022 quarter-finals. In legacy mode, it will be reduced to a 20,000-seater stadium and become the home of local football team Al Wakrah Sports Club. An innovative cooling system and retractable roof will enable the stadium to be used all year round.