'Russia World Cup experience inspired me on the road to Qatar 2022'
I work for the Qatar Football Association as the Executive Director for National Teams and was nominated to take part in the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy's Russia 2018 secondment programme.
During the secondment, which lasted a month, I was based at Moscow's Spartak Stadium and worked as the FIFA Competitions Coordinator. Overall, it was a wonderful experience that provided many learning opportunities.
Reporting to the FIFA General Coordinator, it was my job to ensure that everything connected to a match conforms to FIFA standards. This includes team training sessions, the match coordination meeting, the dressing rooms, countdown to kick-off, warm-up sessions, the tunnel, and both half-time and full-time operations.
During the first three days, I attended the FIFA Competitions Workshop, which gave a clear picture of the processes involved in tournament operations. Many of my counterparts had worked at previous tournaments, so it was challenging for me to get up to speed. I'm so glad that I did. In doing so, I met two objectives of the programme – adding value to the 2018 FIFA World Cup and being a worthy ambassador of my country, which is known for its excellence in hosting sporting events.
One of my abiding memories came during the first day. Standard FIFA protocol includes hosting an arrival meeting for all 32 participating teams – even the home team gets welcomed to their own World Cup. I was part of the arrival meeting for Russia and two other countries. I felt a surge of excitement during Russia's arrival as I realised the next team arrival for a World Cup host nation would be Qatar's in 2022.
During the 12 days leading up to the Argentina versus Iceland game on 16 June, along with officials from the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee, we repeatedly went over every aspect of the venue with a fine toothcomb to ensure that even the tiniest of details adhered to FIFA standards.
The main objective of the programme was to apply the learnings from Russia for 2022. I realised I had to observe the tournament, not just as an official, but from multiple perspectives – a fan, tourist, player and volunteer.
In addition to my duties, I visited the Moscow FIFA Fan Fest, attended matches at other venues and observed various measures undertaken by the police and Russian authorities.
My most emotional moment came during the Russia versus Spain round of 16 game at Luzhniki Stadium. The home fans around me passionately sang the Russian national anthem before kick-off. I had tears in my eyes and goose bumps on my skin as I visualised my own country's national anthem being sung at Lusail Stadium on 21 November 2022.
There is no doubt we have big shoes to fill, as Russia hosted an excellent tournament. Many went back from Russia saying it was the best World Cup ever, and I agree with that view, though with a caveat – it was the best tournament to-date – the best ever will be hosted by Qatar. Thanks to experiences like mine, my country will be ready and waiting to welcome the world to enjoy a unique World Cup in 2022.
As told to Abilash Nalapat.