The 2020 AFC Champions League season, which had come to a halt in March due to the Coronavirus pandemic, has resumed on Monday with the remaining games being played in Qatar.
The three 2022 World Cup stadiums that Qatar have already inaugurated - Khalifa International, Al Janoub and Education City - apart from another venue are the hosts to the West Asian groups in the continental competition.
Nasser Al Khater, CEO of the 2022 World Cup, feels that Qatar Football Association (QFA) stepping in to host the remaining 39 matches is a landmark in terms of continental football's return. Qatar will also host the West Asian knockout stage games as well until the semifinal.
“The AFC Champions League is a prestigious tournament that we are honoured to host. We are particularly thrilled to have been able to step in and help the AFC at this late stage of the tournament and play a role in facilitating the gradual, safe return of Asian football to stadiums – on behalf of football lovers around the world,” Al Khater told qatar2022.qa .
Understandably, QFA have taken a lot of measures to ensure safety of the players and implement a safety bubble, right from the players and staff entering the country to playing the games.
"From the very beginning, we have worked with the Qatar Football Association, the Qatar Stars League and the Asian Football Confederation to ensure that all possible safety precautions are taken so that the tournament is delivered safely for everyone involved. This includes putting in place a series of measures at every step of the user journey from arrival at Hamad International Airport to hotels, training sites and stadiums," he added.
The matches are set to be held behind closed doors but even then Al Khater believes the tournament being conducted is a key development.
"While it is unfortunate that matches will not be open to fans, we believe in the power of football to bring people together – even if this means coming together digitally or through television screens."
He feels that hosting such a tournament will also test the battle readiness of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy's (SC) and the QFA as they build up to the 2022 World Cup.
"The AFC Champions League will be yet another substantial event that Qatar will host as one of numerous test events, to maximize our preparedness well ahead of the World Cup in just over two years from now. Hosting the AFC will be an important test to ensure its readiness to host matches through to the quarterfinal stages of the World Cup Qatar 2022," he assessed.
Al Khater also highlighted the fact that all the innovative features at the stadiums will be on display during the AFC Champions League including the Advanced Cooling Tech among other features.
"We are particularly excited to showcase once again our innovative cooling technology that will guarantee a temperature of 18 to 24 degrees Celsius at a time when we still haven’t yet made it through the summer’s heat.
“Also, three World Cup training sites will be used by the competing clubs throughout the tournament. These are key venues for the World Cup as they will enable teams to stay and train in the same FIFA standards venue throughout the tournament.”
Clubs from Iraq, Iran, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and hosts Qatar will be participating in the AFC Champions League in Qatar.