Kuala Lumpur: Although I would have much preferred to be there in person, I was still honoured and excited to take part virtually when the completion of Education City Stadium – the third tournament-ready venue for the next FIFA World Cup – was marked in Doha, Qatar.
Having been there for the opening of Al Janoub Stadium, in May 2019, I can vouch that there is nothing like seeing these stunning buildings up close – however the digital launch of Education City Stadium, dedicated to frontline workers, was a fitting tribute considering the challenges the world has faced throughout 2020.
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On that note, I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been involved in the relief efforts throughout this year. From the frontline health workers who have risked their own safety to provide care to others, through to all those people who have continued to provide essential services.
So many people throughout communities have made personal sacrifices in order to help the world get through such a difficult time – and they deserve acknowledgement. It has been truly humbling and moving to see so many people put the welfare of others before their own.
I have spoken before about the power of sport to unite us and to help us heal. For me, this was one of the reasons why the opening of Education City Stadium was so exciting, not only because of the incredible design and appearance, but because of what Education City, and the stadium itself, represent.
Education City Stadium represents the crossover of two fields I am extremely passionate about – sport and education. Whenever I speak to young kids, I always tell them to train hard and follow their dreams, but I also tell them to make an equal effort in school and with their homework. It’s something that I take very seriously as a father. As much as we enjoyed family games and activities during the lockdown period, taking on the role of teacher and making sure all my kids kept up with their school work was just as important to me.
It’s also something that I’ve tried to share beyond my immediate circles through my Tiny Timmy children’s books series. Since 2015, I’ve been writing stories from my own football career, told with fun characters and storylines that share important messages about health, education and inclusiveness.
On a personal level, I left high school when I was 16 to pursue my dream of becoming a footballer. But I made sure not to forget about my education. Once my career was over, I enrolled in university and studied the business of entertainment, media and sports at Harvard in the US.
One of the things I loved most about that experience was the appetite for learning that everyone had. Having spent time in Education City, I can tell that the students and teachers have that same passion. The area is full of schools and university campuses from global institutions, such as Georgetown and Carnegie Mellon. Education City Stadium is going to be a great addition to one of my favourite parts of Doha.
In addition to the larger significance of the stadium, the design is truly one of the best I have ever seen. I’ve spent my life around football stadiums – so it takes something pretty special to impress me – but everything about this building is state-of-the-art.
I also think it is important to highlight the positive legacy that the stadium will leave. Following the World Cup, it will serve the Education City area as a space for events and classrooms, while half the seats will be removed and donated to projects in developing countries. This demonstrates how Qatar’s World Cup will be used as a vehicle to benefit local communities, as well as those around the world.
I can’t wait until travel restrictions are lifted and I am able to fly to Qatar and see the completed Education City Stadium in person. It marks one step closer to Qatar 2022, which I’m truly excited to be a part of.
By Tim Cahill, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy Ambassador
Sources: FIFA.com, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy
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