Meet Thani Al Zarraa, the man behind Al Wakrah Stadium
Thani Al Zarraa was a young engineer when first tasked with managing the construction of Al Wakrah Stadium. On that day, 33 months ago, he felt as any Qatari would: hugely honoured – while knowing he had been given massive responsibility.
A structural engineer by profession and a graduate from Griffith University in Australia, Al Zarraa joined the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) in 2013 and soon started doing feasibility studies for the then proposed host venues for the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Arab world.
"We were looking for sustainable designs that represented Qatar and its culture," said Al Zarraa. "For Al Wakrah Stadium, we had various options from Zaha Hadid and chose the dhow boat representation because it was the most relevant to the city's seafaring past."
Shortly after the stadium design was selected and revealed to the world, Al Zarraa was appointed to lead the team that would build the 40,000 capacity venue that would eventually become the first stadium built from scratch for the FIFA World Cup 2022™.
"When you're first given a multi-million-dollar scope like this you feel it's a big responsibility and, at the same time, a huge honour. Of course, I didn't want to make any mistakes and worked daily with the guidance and follow-up of our senior management," he continued.
Throughout the project, Al Zarraa worked tirelessly with his team to deliver a one-of-a-kind venue that would also become the heart of the Al Wakrah municipality. "We worked closely with the community and built a masterplan area with cycling and running tracks, and a community market, to ensure the area would be used by residents long after the World Cup has ended," he said.
Since that day in 2015 when he first dove into the life of a project manager, Al Zarraa started to understand two things: that project management life "is not normal" and that teamwork is fundamental to the success of any project. "I'm very thankful to my team. They are hardworking, eager and keen. Our time together has been both challenging and enjoyable," he said.
Fast forward almost four years to March 2019 and Al Zarraa oversaw the installation of the pitch at Al Wakrah Stadium in a world record time of just 9 hours 15 minutes. For anyone in the business, once a stadium under construction has a field of play, it becomes clear that the shift from construction into completion has begun.
"The day we laid the pitch I walked from goalpost to goalpost, or from where I imagined the goalposts would be, as they were not yet installed. I imagined the stadium packed with fans, two teams on the pitch, and in the presence of His Highness The Amir, and I got goose bumps," he said.
Al Zarraa is still not sure what he will do when the crowds leave Al Wakrah Stadium after the final and the venue becomes silent again, but as a keen triathlete, cycling or running around the world-class stadium he has helped deliver may just do the trick until he has to go back to work. For Al Zarraa and us all, the road to 2022 continues.