DOHA (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino hailed Qatar’s progress on infrastructure ahead of its 2022 World Cup and said the tournament is poised to be the best one yet during a visit to the next host nation on Tuesday.
Qatar’s tiny size, high temperatures and lack of ready stadium infrastructure have prompted some to question FIFA’s decision to make it host, but the desert state has since launched huge construction projects and promised to complete seven new stadiums by 2020.
“You can see the progress which is being made here four years before kickoff,” Infantino said via a statement from Qatar’s local World Cup organising committee after he toured the 40,000-seater Al Wakrah stadium.
“The stadium is very impressive. When you enter here you immediately feel how imposing it is.”
“The Russian World Cup has been the best ever but the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar — I am sure — will be even better,” Infantino added.
The next tournament’s logistics were further complicated last year when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of financing terrorism, a charge Qatar denies.
Qatar has nonetheless said it is pushing ahead with ambitious infrastructure plans to host the World Cup — the centrepiece of Doha’s strategy to project itself on the global stage — and has since inaugurated a $7.4 billion (£5.7 billion) port and expects to open its first metro by the end of this year.
Reporting by Eric Knecht; editing by Martyn Herman