Football officials in Qatar are hoping this week's Asian Cup will furnish proof of the country's ability to host major sporting events.
The championship, scheduled to begin Friday (January 7th) at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, runs until January 29th. The Qatari capital completed its preparations ahead of the tournament, and football officials said it will be a rehearsal for hosting the World Cup in 2022.
"The State of Qatar has been ready to host the tournament for a long time, specifically since the drawing of lots last April," said Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani, president of the Qatar Football Federation and chairman of the organising committee for the Asian Cup.
"All teams participating in the tournament have aspirations to win the title," he said during a reception at Doha Airport Monday. "The Qatar Football Federation prepared the team well to fight in this competition, in which the best teams in Asia take part."
Saud Mohannadi, executive chairman of the championship's organising committee said, "The public will be a key partner in the tournament's success."
He said hosting the Asia Cup will provide valuable experience for officials as they prepare for the World Cup.
The 16 teams are divided into four groups. The first group includes Qatar, Kuwait, China and Uzbekistan. The second group includes Saudi Arabia, Japan, Jordan and Syria. The third group is comprised of South Korea, India, Australia, and Bahrain. The fourth group includes defending champion Iraq, North Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Iran.
Qatar designated five venues for the tournament including Khalifa International Stadium, which has a capacity of 50,000, Gharafa Club Stadium (25,000), Jassim bin Mohamed Stadium (15,000), Qatar Club Stadium (19,000), and Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium (25,000).
Ibrahim Juma, supervisor of the media centre, said Qatar hopes to benefit from organising the tournament.
"Everything was prepared early," Juma told Al-Shorfa. "We have high organisational abilities and previous experience. We will use it to show the shining face of the Asian championship, which is considered the World Cup of Asia."
Juma said the media centre was opened 10 days before the tournament began."It is equipped with the latest equipment and allows journalists to interact quickly with their media outlets. Hundreds of journalists from Asia, Europe and Africa are here to cover this landmark event."
Essa Hitmi, director of Qatar's Cup and League channel, denied allegations that the channel paid a large fee to be the official broadcaster of the Asian Cup of Nations.
"The games will be carried by 25 cameras on the field and 50 additional cameras along with a team of close to 600 people with the help of some Europeans who worked in broadcasting the World Cup and European leagues such as the Spanish League," he said during a press conference Monday in Doha.
According to Hitmi, the channel will provide continuous live broadcasts during the Asian Cup for up to 18 hours almost every day. Broadcasts will start from 9 a.m. and last until 2 a.m. the following day.