Tonight the 15th Asian Cup will kick off in the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha in what is being viewed by most of the footballing world as a little sample of what to expect in 2022 when the FIFA World Cup rolls into town. Obviously the whole country will have changed by then, none more so that the commercial districts of Doha, a city just a bit bigger than Leeds that is expected to host well over a million visitors for the tournament. For the Asian Cup the visitors are expected hardly to make a dent in the available hotel rooms and restaurants in the vibrant city.
The other notable fact is that the tournament is being played in January. On winning the bid for the tournament in 2007 (Qatar received 6 out of 10 possible votes, with Iran gaining 3 and India 1) the Asian Confederation had the choice to hold the tournament in January or July. Obviously with average temperatures in the Summer over 40C it would be foolhardy to play the tournament then and so it was agreed to move it to January. FIFA take note – “It would be foolhardy to play it in such heat”.
The tournament is being played in five stadiums, four of which are in the capital city. And due to this fact, it is a perfect opportunity to catch two matches in a day. Now to us nothing could be more perfect than some Winter sunshine and two games of football in close proximity, well apart from a place that sold 50pence beers. Two out of three of these were enough to tempt our men from Dagenham to book a suite at the Movenpick hotel for a week, buy their £3 tickets for as many games as they could and head off to bring us all the action from the first week of the tournament. So stay tuned for all of the inside track.