The Minister of Energy and Industry H E Dr Mohamed bin Saleh Al Sada (second left), with AFC President, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa (second right), at a function at the Sharq Village and Spa in Doha yesterday. The Administration Manager of Qatar Petroleum, Ahmed Ali Al Mawlawi (left), and the President of West Asian World Sport Group, Pierre Kakhia (right), signed a three-year agreement to become a commercial partner of AFC. The President of Qatar Football Association, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani (centre), also attended the signing. Salim Matramkot
By Rizwan Rehmat
DOHA: Asian football boss Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa has dismissed as “unfair” a series of reports in the Western media about alleged abuse of migrant workers in Qatar and said the 2022 FIFA World Cup is in ‘good hands’.
Asked if the negative press Qatar is getting in the build-up to 2022 was justified, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)president said: “I think it is unfair. I mean you look at problems faced by other countries which have hosted the World Cup. They (problems) are much greater compared to Qatar’s. I think most of it (criticism) is artificial. And if there are issues, I am sure Qatar will do its best to solve them.
“There has always been good intention and commitment from Qatar 2022 to address issues and problems and I think we are in good hands when Qatar hosts the World Cup. I am sure when the time comes, everybody will see what Qatar can do when they host the Cup.”
He said some members of the media have gone overboard in their reports in recent times. “We shouldn’t take it too much (seriously),” he said when asked if the Western press should be advised to be patient with their reports.
“I think some of the media have crossed the line by focusing on issues that maybe are there but they can be adjusted (sorted out) in another way. What they talk about scheduling and timing (summer or winter), I think that’s not fair. I think Qatar is open to any suggestion to have a World Cup that’s played in the best way.
“This is something that Qatar — I get the feeling when I am around and I am sure even other executive committee or FIFA members feel the same way — is that the support we get here (in Qatar) is beyond the commitment any country may have ever shown,” Sheikh Salman said.
“The 2022 FIFA is going to be hosted in Asia and we, as a confederation, will always support our members and Qatar is a vital member. We will support them 100 percent and 150 percent in what’s just and right and fair, nothing more, nothing less.”
Asia deserves more in terms of hosting the World Cup, he said, adding he would seek more berths at the game’s top event held every four years.
“We hosted the World Cup in Japan and South Korea (in 2002). Now we are going to see a tournament in the Middle East. We are looking forward to it though it is still far away. The organisation has done a terrific job so far. The AFC will always support them in any way they can. “I think this (to seek more World Cup berths) is one of our priorities to have more Asian countries at the World Cup. We have to see how more Asian countries can be at the World Cup.
“Of course, it won’t happen at the 2014 edition but hopefully in 2018 or 2022 we can have more countries. We have seen how teams have developed by just appearing at the World Cup. The infrastructure in the (Asian) countries who have featured in the World Cup have improved their game. I hope that my colleagues at AFC will have an agenda with other confederations to get what we deserve,” he pointed out.
Sheikh Salman said AFC member countries needed to work on getting more fans where crowd attendance is poor.
“I think the focus should be at the club (to get more fans in). Supporters are always supporters of the clubs they follow. Each federation has to look into this. They have to tap into the loyalty of fans with their clubs.
“We see in Europe that fans pay so much of money to attend a club game and yet facilities are there, support is there and that attachment and commitment is also there. On the national team levels, we see different patterns — sometimes we see full stadiums and sometimes not.
“The background of each country is also a driving factor who the fans follow in their national teams. If AFC can do something in this role, we will be very happy to support national associations. It is not a continent issue. It is a problem in some countries,” he added.
Asked if aggressive marketing was the key, Sheikh Salman said:
“Maybe. There are countries who have strong marketing, pretty strong, and yet attendance is not up to their expectations. I think there are different solutions. Once we identify the reasons (for low attendance) then hopefully we can find the right solutions.”