Al Thumama Stadium view
Xavi Laurent Blanc embrace

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FIFA World Cup™ winners share their thoughts on Al Thumama Stadium

Xavi Laurent Blanc embrace

 

This Friday, Al Thumama Stadium will become the sixth FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ venue to be inaugurated by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) when it plays host to the 49th Amir Cup Final between Al Rayyan and Al Sadd.

 

The 40,000-capacity stadium, which will also play a prominent role during the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™ later this year, is an ideal setting to stage this year’s edition of Qatar’s most prestigious domestic football competition.

 

Ahead of the big match, the head coach of each finalist met at Al Thumama. Al Rayyan boss Laurent Blanc, a FIFA World Cup™ winner with France in 1998, and Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez, a champion with Spain in 2010, toured the venue and gave their thoughts on the stadium.

 

For ex-Barcelona star Xavi, the match will have a sense of familiarity, as the former midfielder will be taking part in his fourth Qatar 2022 stadium inauguration. He played for Al Sadd during the inaugurations of Khalifa International and Al Janoub before coaching the team for the opening of Ahmad Bin Ali.

 

Xavi South Africa 2010

 

The 41-year-old, who is also a Qatar Legacy Ambassador, spoke highly of Al Thumama’s design and construction. The stadium resembles the ‘gahfiya’ head cap worn by men and boys across the Arab world. Its architect is local man Ibrahim M. Jaidah.

 

“This stadium is wonderful,” said Xavi. “For the fans, the players, for me as a coach, this is spectacular. I’m proud to be part of the opening of this stadium. We previously did this for Khalifa International, Al Janoub, Ahmad Bin Ali and now Al Thumama. This stadium also reflects something very traditional for Qataris in the gahfiya head ware.”

 

Xavi continued: “I feel proud and honoured to be part of the opening of this stadium and I’m so happy to be part of another Amir Cup Final. It’s an honour for me and for fans of Al Sadd.”

 

Aiming to win his first piece of silverware in Qatari football, Blanc would be delighted to earn that achievement in Al Thumama with Al Rayyan. “It is a very beautiful stadium, like all the ones that have been built for the World Cup. Sincerely, they are exceptionally beautiful,” said the former centre back. “When you see these stadiums, you want to play again. Unfortunately, my playing days are over.”

 

Friday’s match involves two of Qatar’s most popular clubs, with the clash between Al Rayyan and Al Sadd dubbed the ‘Qatar Classico’. In pursuit of a record 18th Amir Cup title, Xavi and his Al Sadd squad are expecting a challenging contest. “For us, it is very important, as I am sure it is for Al Rayyan,” Xavi said. “It is the biggest competition in the country, and it means a lot to the Qataris. We have to be better than Al Rayyan to win the game, to control the emotions, because the stadium is going to be packed and there will be a lot of nerves and tension. Let's not forget it is a derby; it is like Barcelona against Real Madrid, so it is going to be a really good atmosphere.”

 

Laurent Blanc France 1998

 

With just over a year to go before football’s showpiece event takes centre stage, both Blanc and Xavi reminisced about becoming FIFA World Cup™ winners with great fondness. While Xavi’s experience came in South Africa, Blanc lifted the trophy on home soil 23 years ago. “To win a World Cup in your own country is really a fantastic experience,” Blanc said. “You still think about it ten, 20, even 30 years later. Even if you don't think about it, people make you think about it.”

 

Blanc continued: “Qatar is about to experience the World Cup and I hope there are lots of people that come to see it.”

 

Xavi believes momentum is building ahead of the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Middle East and Arab world. “We are so close to the start of the World Cup and you can breathe the football atmosphere,” Xavi said. “You can see more football people are here and the Amir Cup Final will be full of fans. I can see people’s excitement for the World Cup is growing.”

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