The 2022 World Cup will be the first-ever World Cup to be held in the Middle-East…
The World Cup, the grandest show in football, is coming to Asia for only the second time in it’s history with Qatar hosting the 2022 edition. The Middle-East nation have already established themselves as one of the giants on the continent when it comes to hosting and managing sporting events. Even then, it will be safe to say, they have taken a leaf out of the book of another Asian giant – Japan, who incidentally were the co-hosts when the World Cup came Asia for the very first time in 2002.
While Japan were the pioneers in 2002 with state-of-the-art stadiums and facilities, especially the Yokohama stadium which hosted the World Cup final, Qatar have taken it up a notch with cutting-edge tech that they have used to build their eight venues for the 2022 World Cup, feels Australian legend Tim Cahill.
Interestingly, Qatar’s eight swanky stadiums, seven of which are/are being built from scratch are world class. And six of them have Advanced Cooling Tech and other features, making them the most advanced footballing venues in the world. Interestingly, the one stadium that does not have a cooling tech, Ras Abu Aboud stadium, is fully demountable. Cahill also believes that the two nations have helped each other in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup and there is a lot of common ground to be found.
“There’s a nice synergy (between Qatar and Japan). Japan are one of the leaders in hosting mega events and building stadiums. Japan, I said in 2000 that they were the pioneers. And Qatar have the taken it to the next level with their implementation, you know – seven out of the eight stadiums with cooling systems, air conditioning etc, ” Cahill, who is currently in Qatar, working with the Aspire Academy as their Chief Sports Officer, told Goal.
“There’s definitely an amazing relationship between the Asian countries, two power houses,” he added.
The former Everton star also spoke about how Qatar and Japan have proven themselves as leaders in hosting mega events, even during pandemic and pointed out that the countries have helped each other. Japan hosted the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics while Qatar played hosts to the 2020 AFC Champions League, 2020 Club World Cup and even Japan’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against China recently.
“I think I’ve been able to witness some amazing events, especially here living in Qatar, seeing how you can hold events during the pandemic, have the (bio) bubbles. Make sure everyone’s safe and make sure the protocol is good. There was the Club World Cup, and then we had (the World Cup) qualifiers. Then we have the Asian Champions League.
“Massive congratulations also to Tokyo and Japan, for the Olympic Games. To be able to be structured and navigate the pandemic and everything that comes with it with (participation from) every country in the world. It was a great experience. And Qatar had people in contact with Japan to learn from the Olympics.”
Cahill is no stranger to Japan, having featured in many a battle with the Blue Samurai during his illustrious playing career for the Socceroos. In fact, Cahill has a nickname – Japan Killer – bestowed by journalists from the Asian nation. Perhaps, the most memorable of his battles with Japan will be Australia’s group stage fixture against them in the 2006 World Cup. It was Australia’s first World Cup game in 32 years and Cahill did the star turn, coming off the bench to score a historic brace and overturn a 1-0 deficit.
“Yep, I was sitting on the bench playing against Japan and we were one nil down. Guus Hiddink subs me on and a few minutes later, I scored the first ever goal for Australia in a World Cup. And I remember, you know, playing in that game, that was 1-1 and soon after I scored the second goal. I suppose that sort of set the tone. Because, you know, that got us our first ever three points (at a World Cup). It was an amazing feeling that.
“Over the years (against Japan), there were qualifying campaigns – games in Australia .I scored a couple of goals at home against Japan to secure another World Cup qualification. I think it was in Melbourne I scored two goals there against them in a game that they were dominating,” Cahill reminisced.
However, it was not all sweet memories for him. Cahill was part of Australia’s 2011 Asian Cup team which were beaten by Japan in the final in Doha at the Khalifa International stadium, one of the venues for the 2022 World Cup.
“Yeah, the final I was strapped up in my right knee. I think some of the other players has had injuries and we come into the game and we pretty much gave everything and we lost at the final hurdle. We lost then it was so sad. I’ll never forget the feeling but Japan were deserved winners.”
There was also the final match of the third round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers where Australia had to avoid defeat to Japan. They could not and Cahill and his team were required to go through the play-offs where they beat Syria and then Honduras.
“Probably one of my most memorable games is the last World Cup qualifying game against Japan, we needed to win or we needed to draw just to go through with Japan and we lost. We didn’t play for a draw, we played to win.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get a result and the whole team, all the staff went inside. I stayed outside and Japan had set up a massive hoarding, whatever to celebrate and have all their jerseys on that they’re going to next World Cup, we had to go through the next phase which was Syria to qualify. I stayed outside. And basically there’s a photo that I used on my Instagram and I keep using it, I think you have to go through that hurt to understand the pain because at the end of the day, we qualified for the World Cup.”
And Cahill hopes to see Japan qualify for the 2022 World Cup where he can enjoy one of his favourite teams play from his new home.
“And so Japan for me is a love story. It’s romantic. So playing in their stadiums, you know, I scored against them. And they clapped me after the game. I have a great rapport with the (Japanese) federation, the players, the current players. So I can talk forever, but there’s some memorable moments between me and Japan. They are one of the favourites to get further taste of Qatar, when they qualify for the World Cup next year.”