Meet Abdulaziz Al Ishaq
From a career as a player at Al Wakrah Sports Club in the 1970s, a university scholarship in North America before a return to his home nation to help play a key part in delivering Al Wakrah Stadium – Abdulaziz Al Ishaq has been on a fascinating journey. He spoke to us about his 40-year affiliation with the club, the city and his pride in being a part of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
How proud are you to be part of this project, especially considering your affiliation with the city of Al Wakrah?
Firstly, I am so proud to be part of this landmark in the State of Qatar. I believe I have now been able to do something for my nation; a nation which has done so much for me.
I started playing for Al Wakrah when I was 13 years old. I played for the youth teams at first and did well, so I eventually got the chance to join the first team. At the beginning, I was often a substitute, but after three years I got my chance and started most games. I started as a centre back; then they pushed me to the right side and I became a wing-back.
This was in the 1970s, and by '78 and '79 I reached the peak of my performance. I was lucky enough to represent Wakrah in the Amir Cup final for two years running. We didn't win unfortunately but it was a huge honour to play in front of His Highness and represent Wakrah.
Later I got a university scholarship to study engineering in North America. The club asked me if I could stay a little bit longer because the national team was interested in selecting me, but I said I needed to go and study.
When did you come back to Qatar, and how keen were you to be involved in the FIFA World Cup™ when Qatar won the rights to host?
It was around 1987 that I returned to Qatar and yes, absolutely, I was very determined to be part of this World Cup. I applied to the SC and they asked for an interview. They liked my age and experience, and said it would be helpful for me to be part of the team.
Tell me about your job here…
I am part of the team which manages the stadium project. I share responsibilities with the project manager and project executive director. We are all engineers and there are certain activities that each one of us knows how to handle given the certain responsibilities and experiences that we have – so we work very well together as a team.
What makes Al Wakrah Stadium so special?
You cannot compare this stadium to any other. You can only compare it to an artist sitting down with a paintbrush and creating something. It's not something you can create automatically on a computer. It is a piece of art. We were fortunate to have worked with Zaha Hadid, such a well-known and pioneering architect around the world – and she gave us a really interesting and unique stadium. We are proud to have it here.
The progress at Al Wakrah Stadium has been astounding. What do you put this success down to?
We are fortunate for three reasons. Firstly, the contractor, the designers and everyone involved in this project is the best of the best. They are all highly experienced in this field and are specialists in what they do because they have worked on so many stadiums around the world. The second advantage is that most of the materials we use for the stadiums are local materials, and therefore we get great support. Thirdly, the blockade. This was also an advantage for us because we got people moving even more materials through local markets – so things have been able to move very quickly.
What does this stadium mean to the people and city of Al Wakrah?
It will become a landmark of Al Wakrah. Wakrah is an old town that has now become very much open. We have lots of shops, a mall, schools; thousands of people now live here. People used to come to Al Wakrah for the beach and for one of the best fishing spots in Qatar, but having a landmark like this for the people here is something that is greatly appreciated.
How do you think you will you feel on 16 May, when His Highness The Amir cuts the ribbon at the stadium?
This is the most important moment that we are all looking forward to. I've played twice in the Amir Cup final and been honoured to get to the stage and shake hands with His Highness. This moment for a football player, it means a lot. Especially if you are a Qatari national – that he knows who you are and where you come from, with people all around watching you, it is a special moment. When he is here to open the new stadium, it will be a very special moment for us all.
Can you believe that in three-and-a-half years' time, Al Wakrah will be hosting FIFA World Cup™ matches?
People here are waiting for this moment. They are really waiting and counting the days. I assure you Wakrah will be one of the most attractive places for all these fans to visit. We have Souq Wakrah, we have the beach, we have some old restaurants and everything is very close to each other. People can walk around and enjoy everything very easily. Most of the Wakrah people are Qataris, and Qataris are very welcoming and generous – and love to welcome people from all around the world.