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AFC Champions League coaches and players hail host nation Qatar, awed by FIFA World Cup stadiums

Doha: As the 2020 AFC Champions League (East) moves into the latter stages, coaches and players of participating clubs have heaped praise on the organisation and facilities offered by the host nation Qatar.

The FIFA World Cup 2022 hosts had successfully hosted the West Asia matches between September 14 and October 3, culminating in Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis FC reaching the final, and Qatar was again chosen as the venue for the remainder of the competition where one team from East Asia groups aspires to join them in the final taking place at Al Janoub Stadium on December 19.

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“I visited Qatar as a player in 1999 but now that I came again everything has changed,” said FC Seoul head coach Lee Won-jun who was part of the FC Seoul side (then known Anyang LG Cheetahs) who played in the 1999-2000 Asian Cup Winners cup.

“Despite the Covid-19 situation, we are very pleased to be here. The hotel and stadium facilities are great. We felt safe and had no concerns about anything.”

Departing Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors boss Jose Morais expressed his gratitude for the efforts involved in the organisation of the 2020 AFC Champions League under the circumstances.

“Thanks to everyone who made this possible because the challenge was big,” said Morais.

“We know the organisation of this tournament is not easy considering the situation. I really admire the efforts that were put in for this to happen. I want to say thank you to Qatar and wish them all success with the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

Meanwhile, 2006 FIFA World Cup winning captain and Guangzhou Evergrande head coach Fabio Cannavaro believes the nation is well prepared to host the second-ever FIFA World Cup to take place in Asia.

“When we talk about the FIFA World Cup, I was one of the luckiest guys to lift the trophy. I am thankful to be here in these facilities that will host the next edition. I have been to Qatar many times and I know everyone is working hard for 2022 and I’m sure they will be ready.”

For Melbourne Victory assistant coach Steve Kean, the preparations were clear to see from the moment the team arrived at Hamad International Airport.

“We have been extremely impressed from the moment we stepped off the plane with the measures in place and the facilities. When we travelled on the road to come to the stadium, we saw the facilities the country is putting in place to prepare for the FIFA World Cup. Qatar can be proud of what they have achieved.”

With their eyes fixated on becoming the second team from China PR to win the AFC Champions League, Beijing FC head coach Bruno Genesio was of the opinion the facilities in Qatar contribute to the players’ being able to focus on what matters.

“We followed the guidelines put in place since our arrival here and we feel well protected,” said the former Olympique Lyon boss.

“While we are here, we have seen the infrastructure is impressive. The set up in place really helps us prepare easily.”

Shanghai SIPG midfielder Cai Huikang had previously visited Doha with the Chinese national team for a FIFA World Cup qualifier, and he is hopeful he could return with his country for the Finals in two years’ time.

“I have been impressed by Qatar and the city of Doha. Here in this city there are a lot of good stadiums, the facilities are amazing. When the players come on the pitch, everyone is eager to play on those stadiums. When I came here for the national team, I always wanted to play here. I hope I will come back with the national team in 2022.”

The facilities in the Qatari capital surpassed the expectations of Sydney FC’s Paulo Retre, who enjoyed the competition’s centralised format.

“We were pleasantly surprised with the facilities in Qatar. The training ground is great and we loved being part of this competition here. We feel a centralised tournament gives us relief from all the travel."

The 15-team competition, following the withdrawal of Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim, sees four air-conditioned venues hosting the matches, including three 2022 FIFA World Cup host grounds; Al Janoub Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium and Education City Stadium, while Al Sadd SC’s Jassim bin Hamad Stadium having hosted matches in the group stage.

Photos: AFP

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