Mohammed Saadon Al Kuwari is a respected sports journalist and presenter with beIN SPORTS. Known to millions across the Middle East and North Africa, he is a former professional tennis player on the ATP Tour and a Qatar Davis Cup representative. He is also an official ambassador of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the organisation responsible for delivering tournament infrastructure for the FIFA World Cup 2022™.
Speaking exclusively to sc.qa he discusses the Qatar 2022 emblem launch, and what the tournament means to people of the country.
The launch marks a major milestone on the road to 2022. As a Qatari national, former professional sportsman and now journalist – how proud are you of the progress so far?
I was proud to cover some of the previous World Cups. I was in South Africa in 2010, Brazil in 2014 and Russia 2018 with beIN SPORTS. In most of these experiences, usually the stadiums are ready one year or even a few months before the World Cup. So being in Khalifa Stadium in 2017, five-and-a-half years ahead of the World Cup, watching the Amir Cup final between Al Sadd and Al Rayyan, was amazing. Usually it doesn't happen. This makes me proud.
At the same time if you see the general progress of the country when it comes to the infrastructure, the metro, the training facilities and the rest of the projects we have in this country, it's really amazing; it shows the effect of sport and of football to help develop a small country like Qatar.
The emblem represents many facets of Qatari and Arabian culture. How import is it in representing the culture of the region?
The emblem we launch today represents continuity of Qatar showing itself as a proud country. Proud of its heritage and history; its architecture, buildings and stadiums. For example, we have seen this clearly in the design of Al Thumama Stadium, which is based on part of the national dress of the country – and in Al Bayt Stadium, which represents part of the history of this country. So, for me, the design of the emblem follows in this process, and perfectly symbolises the country and the region. We can all be very proud.
The emblem launch represents the first real 'look and feel' moment of Qatar 2022. How else do you think Qatar will stamp its own identity on the tournament?
First of all, the look and feel of every building related to the World Cup will be unique, because architecturally it is a unique region. At the same time, I think another unique factor will be the opportunity for the people coming to really experience the entire World Cup from the first game to the last. Because of the accessibility and the size of the country people will be able to watch two or even three games in one day.
Qatar has faced criticism from outside for being too small, but for me it's a huge advantage and for any football fan to feel almost every action of every game – when you're never more than a few kilometers from the action – and enjoying games in fan zones with people from every nation in one place. It will be a real international festival of unity; something only sport can bring.
Where were you on the famous night in December 2010 when Qatar was confirmed as the 2022 host nation?
At that time, I was in London studying my Masters. I was in beIN SPORTS' offices – which used to be Al Jazeera Sports back then – and we had huge coverage for that event. I was actually the assigned journalist in England to cover their bid for 2018. We had someone in America, Australia, someone in Russia – we were all over the world. So I was covering England's fortunes, but of course at the same time I was waiting for the news of Qatar. So when it was announced it was really amazing, a feeling I cannot easily describe. A few hours later the channel asked me to come back to Qatar, so that night I was on a plane to Doha.
What can you remember of arriving home that night?
It was a very strange feeling, but what I remember very well was my arrival back to Doha. All the streets were closed and everyone was celebrating outside. I called a friend of mine who works for the police and he came in a police car to take me from the airport to the studio as it was the only way possible to move around.
What does hosting the FIFA World Cup™ mean to Qatari nationals – of all generations?
My generation is lucky, because we saw the peak of this country and we lived through the progress that has been made. For the older generation, they have been in a more difficult situation. Those who are 60 and over grew up in a very different country. During the '60s and '70s this region had a real economic crisis so many of them worked in very difficult jobs just to stay alive. For me it's particularly pleasing that those people are able to witness the revolution and progress of this country. We believe they played a very important role in raising the bar of quality we now have, and because of the hard work of previous generations we are now able to continue these efforts to see these results – and hosting a competition such as a World Cup is huge for any country, it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing to see.
For those unfamiliar with Qatar and the region, what can fans travelling here expect?
Firstly, it's important to say that this region deserves to host the World Cup. This region loves football – it is in the blood of almost everybody here. For people coming from outside, we also get an opportunity to showcase this country. I was in Russia and I remember the image I had about the country before I travelled there – but when I left that image had been completely reversed. So it's a great opportunity for us to host the world, but at the same time it's a great opportunity for people to come and see the hospitality, the history and the heritage of this region.
Finally, every FIFA World Cup™ benefits when the host nation performs well. With the recent Asian Cup success of the Qatar National Team, what do you think represents a good performance for the team in 2022?
I remember the final day of the World Cup in Russia when His Highness The Amir visited the Kremlin and was ceremonially handed the football by Vladimir Putin. At that time, he said the Russian team had raised the bar for Qatar due to their excellent performance, including knocking out previous champions Spain. For Qatar, we have to be realistic.
Matching Russia's quarter-final achievement will be very difficult. But we are proud of our team and all of their achievements – including winning every game at the Asian Cup. We have a group of talented and educated players who we can all be very proud of. They are good ambassadors of the country and hopefully they will be able to pass the group stage. That is something I think we can realistically hope for.
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