‘The magic of football is for everyone to enjoy’
On the opening day of the FIFA Arab Cup™, thousands of spectators packed into Al Bayt Stadium to watch a stellar opening ceremony ahead of the match between hosts Qatar and Bahrain. Fans were treated to an unforgettable evening that included live performances, fireworks and 3D holograms of some of the Arab world’s most influential artists, before taking in an action-packed 90 minutes of football.
Local man Faisal Al Kohaji was one of the excited supporters who attended the first major match to be held at Al Bayt. Al Kohaji is blind and usually needs someone next to him to describe the action on the field. However, during this match, audio descriptive commentary was delivered via an app on his phone.
Using his own headphones, Al Kohaji was able to listen to an Arabic-speaking commentator describe the opening ceremony and match in great detail, including important information about the stadium’s ambience and even the players’ facial reactions.
“When going to stadiums in the past, I have had to rely on the description of a sighted friend or make do by listening to a time-delayed video of the match on my phone. This technology, however, allows me to enjoy the action on the pitch in the same way that everyone else does,” said Al Kohaji, a long-time supporter of the Qatar national team.
“The commentary allowed me to immerse myself in the game. I love football and I want to know exactly what’s going on with my favourite players, and how the team is performing, and Tuesday was one of the first times in the stands where I got to experience that,” added Al Kohaji.
The service has been featured at FIFA events before, including the two most recent FIFA World Cup™ tournaments in Russia and Brazil, but Qatar’s opening match at the FIFA Arab Cup™ was the first time it was made available in the Arabic language. Audio descriptive commentators were specially trained as part of a joint project between the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ LLC (Q22), the Translation and Interpreting Institute at Hamad Bin Khalifa University and the Centre for Access to Football in Europe.
“With the FIFA Arab Cup being the last major event we host prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, we wanted to make sure that we deploy Arabic language audio descriptive commentary in some of the tournament venues, with plans to roll out at all stadiums when Qatar hosts the FIFA World Cup just under a year from now,” said Jose Retana, Sustainability Senior Manager at Q22.
“Accessibility and inclusion are at the heart of our plans to deliver a sustainable FIFA World Cup, one that would leave a positive human legacy for the region long after the tournament ends. By introducing accessibility features such as audio descriptive commentary in football stadiums, we are increasing their visibility to the wider community and providing the disabled community with the necessary tools to access spaces, content and services in the stands and beyond,” added Retana.
In the build-up to the FIFA Arab Cup™, Qatar 2022 organisers have worked extensively with the disabled community through initiatives such as the Accessibility Forum – a space where disabled people and the organisations that represent them meet regularly to discuss how the FIFA World Cup™ can be used to leave behind an accessible legacy for generations to come.
“The blind community across the Arab world is obsessed with football in the same way that everyone else in the region is, and are looking to us here in Qatar to provide an accessible experience to enjoy the football in a way that they haven’t been able to do before, and what I experienced in the stands at the Arab Cup is a great sign of what’s to come in the World Cup,” added Al Kohaji, who is also the Chairperson of the Qatar Social and Cultural Club for the Blind.
“The magic of football is for everyone to enjoy. It’s a beautiful sport that unites people, and inspires greatness and creativity. With the technology available to me now, I am able to enjoy matches in a way that I never could before,” said Al Kohaji, who plans to continue following his national team throughout the tournament.
Audio descriptive commentary is available throughout the FIFA Arab Cup™ at Al Bayt and Education City stadiums. Fans wanting to make use of the service must download the FIFA Interpreting app (available on the App Store and Google Play) and connect to a dedicated audio stream. After downloading the app, users must insert “ADCECS” as the event code for matches held at Education City Stadium and “ADCABS” for matches held at Al Bayt Stadium.