(MENAFN- The Peninsula)
#Arab Cup 2021
Doha: Excitement has reached the fever pitch as the highly-anticipated inaugural FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021 kicks off today, with 16 best football nations of the region eyeing the glittering trophy.
The opening day will see four group matches being played at the state-of-the-art FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 venues. In all, six World Cup stadiums will host 32 matches throughout the tournament, with two venues – Al Bayt and Stadium 974 – are set to be inaugurated today.
Al Bayt will stage the Group A tie between hosts Qatar and Bahrain (kick-off 7:30 PM local time), while Stadium 974 – formerly known as Ras Abu Aboud Stadium – will host the United Arab Emirates versus Syria match in Group B (kick-off 10 PM local time).
The high-profile tournament is seen as a prelude to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – the first FIFA showpiece in an Arab country – for the organisers. The Arab Cup is being played almost exactly a year before the World Cup.
Nine tournaments among the Arab teams have been held since 1963 but this is the first pan-Arab international tournament to be held under the FIFA umbrella.
“This will be a fantastic event. This event will be used to unite the Arab world. Around 450 million people will cheer and cherish [for their team],” FIFA President Gianni Infantino had said earlier this year.
“More important is the celebration of Arab unity, a celebration of fraternity, a celebration of football which will set the scene for what would be the best ever FIFA World Cup in 2022 here in Qatar,” he added.
The last time Arab football teams came together was in the 2012 edition when Morocco claimed the title in Saudi Arabia. Iraq is the most successful team in pan-Arab events winning titles on four occasions, with Saudi Arabia being crowned twice. Tunisia and Egypt have won the title once.
The teams at the Arab Cup have been divided into four groups with top two sides entering the quarter-finals following the first stage. The final will be played on December 18 – the Qatar National Day.
Apart from Asian champions Qatar and Bahrain, Group A includes Iraq and Oman as the latter booked their place at the expense of Somalia. Bahrain beat Kuwait to enter the Arab Cup during the qualifying tournament in June this year.
Group B includes Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Syria and Mauritania while Group C features Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Palestine. Arguably the toughest section, Group D comprises Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon and Sudan.
To ensure best experience of the thrilling matches during the tournament, the Qatar organisers have launched an innovative Hay'ya (Fan ID) smart card for fans. The Hay'ya Card is a smart-technology identification card designed to provide fans with a unique experience in Qatar and will serve as means of identification and provide access to tournament stadiums in combination with a valid match ticket.
Fans will be able to use public transport to attend matches, with the Doha Metro in close proximity to five of the six tournament venues.
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