Qatar's Asian Cup is a Qualified success...

Qatar's Asian Cup is a Qualified success...
By Caroline Cheese (CP)
Pics by Alexis Castelino
Daijiworld Media Network - Doha

DOHA, Qatar, Jan 30:  Billed as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, the 2011 Asian Cup was nothing of the sort.

Qatar's shock win in the December vote for the 2022 World Cup hosting rights led to a storm of criticism, and put the spotlight on the Asian Cup like never before.

The Gulf nation looked to be passing the first test quite comfortably until Saturday's final when many fans complained of being locked out of the stadium, despite holding tickets.

It was the first major organizational hitch in the tournament, and perhaps it proved Qatar still has lessons to learn about handling big sporting events.

The main criticism up until Saturday had been the rows of empty seats at many games, but a look back at previous tournaments shows that is a common problem at the Asian Cup, which is still catching up with its continental equivalents.

"We would like to see our competition is comparable to the best in the world. This is a target," Asian Football Confederation President Mohamed bin Hammam said last week.
Not many sporting events, let alone football tournaments, are comparable to the World Cup, however.

Visiting fans, other than from neighbouring countries, were a rare sight at the Asian Cup. In 2022, thousands of supporters from across the globe will descend on Qatar, and the locals should be more willing to turn out to watch the world's best teams and their star players than they were to watch the best that Asia has to offer.

Indeed, while football is Qatar's most popular sport, fans are more likely to be found avidly watching Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United on the television than they are at a stadium supporting their local club.

What did become clear at the Asian Cup is that Qatar, for better or worse, will produce a World Cup like no other.

For many fans, football and beer are inseparable partners but they may have to take an enforced break in 2022. Alcohol is available only in licensed bars in mainly five-star hotels — and at a high price. A Budweiser, one of the official sponsors of the World Cup, can cost nearly $10 in a hotel.

Ae-young, a 27-year-old South Korean who lives in the United Arab Emirates and came to Qatar for the Asian Cup, described Doha as a city that "sleeps early."
"It is not like in Korea where life is 24 hours," she said. "And the places we do go to have fun are all closed, and cost a lot."

The alcohol restrictions are expected to be relaxed in time for the World Cup, with drinking allowed in designated fan zones, but rowdy reveling seems unlikely to be tolerated.
In its place, visitors are encouraged to visit the Corniche, take a trip on a dhow boat, wander through the imposing Museum of Islamic Art or shop in one of the many air-conditioned malls or at the Souq Waqif — all in Doha.

If none of those options appeal, fans could spend most of their time at a football match. Qatar will be the smallest country to have hosted a World Cup, a fact the bid committee was keen to play up.

"We promoted a compact World Cup," Bin Hammam said. "We told the world: please come and feel how much more comfortable a World Cup can be organized in a small country."
It is possible to drive around the entire country in less than a day, and with World Cup venues no more than an hour apart from each other, dedicated fans might even be able to squeeze in three matches in 24 hours.

At the Asian Cup, every game took place in Doha or nearby, and no stadium was more than a short drive away, although the city's oppressive traffic meant 15-minute journeys could take more like an hour.

There is no public transport to speak of, but Qatar plans to build a new rail network and metro system and provide a shuttle bus system in 2022.

With a bulging budget and several space-age stadiums planned, one of which will be wrapped in video screens, 2022 promises to be a World Cup to satisfy tech-heads and gadget geeks.
The attitude of this gas-rich nation was summed up by Bora Milutinovic, an ambassador for the bid who has coached five different nations at World Cup tournaments.

"Whatever might become a problem, won't be a problem," the Serb said. "It's not only a matter of money, it's how it is spent. Qatar buys the best possible professional advice.
"They have a vision and they will make it reality. They are determined to make it a memorable experience. Whatever may be lacking, will be built."

Providing cheaper hotels will take up part of the multibillion dollar budget: five-star hotels far outnumber two-stars in Doha.

However, changing the weather is an insurmountable problem, even with the Qatari billions.
Ex-pats appreciate Qatar for its safe, family-friendly environment and the ease of daily life, but all agree that the summer heat, which can top 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), is almost impossible to bear.

Most leave the country, those who stay avoid going outside. Derek Lyon, a Scotsman teaching at a school outside Doha, talks of taking his dog for a walk in the height of summer, and the dog having "had enough after five minutes."

"It's unbearable," Lyon said. "It's all very well to say you'll air-condition the stadiums. I went to the game at Al-Sadd Stadium they organized when the FIFA inspectors were here, and the air conditioning was used. It was amazing. It was 19 degrees (Celsius) in the stadium and 45 (degrees Celsius) outside.

"But you can't air-condition a whole country."

The debate seems set to rumble on for a while yet, but it would not be a major surprise if, as FIFA President Sepp Blatter has already proposed, the World Cup is moved to the Qatari winter months.

Bin Hammam was initially opposed to a move, but seems to have softened his stance of late. For now, he is happy that the Asian Cup has passed off without adding more fuel to the critics' fire.
"For me, (the Asian Cup) was actually more an opportunity for those who have less confidence in Qatar's capability of organizing a World Cup, to witness for themselves what can be done," he said.

It will take more than a successful Asian Cup to change hearts and minds completely.

Japan edge Australia 1-0 to win Asian Cup

Doha, Jan 30 (AFP) Tadanari Lee scored an extra-timewinner as Japan edged Australia 1-0 to win a pulsating AsianCup final and become the most successful team in the historyof the competition.

Buzz up!The unmarked substitute sent a stunning left-foot volleypast the diving Mark Schwarzer in the 109th minute to hand hiscountry their fourth title at the continental showcase, a featno-one else has achieved.

The win, following their successes in 1992, 2000 and2004, carried the added bonus of an automatic place at the2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil -- the traditional World Cupwarm-up tournament.

It followed a deadlocked match at 90 minutes that sentthe game into extra-time, with penalties looking likely untilLee worked his magic.

Both teams had scored 13 times before the final andAustralia looked most likely to add to that early on.

Harry Kewell had the first shot on target in the openingminute, an ambitious long-range drive that didn''t trouble EijiKawashima, while Matt McKay sliced a decent opportunity frominside the box just seconds later.

Schwarzer, who marked a significant milestone bysurpassing Alex Tobin to set a new record for the most cappedSocceroo ever on his 88th appearance, also found himself inaction at the other end.

The 38-year-old, though, had Keisuke Honda''s half-chanceeasily covered.

Australia were looking strong with Japan missing thespark of Shinji Kagawa, who broke a bone in his foot in theirpenalty shoot-out win over South Korea in the last four.

The Australians should have gone ahead on 15 minutes whenBrett Holman whipped a low cross into the area but thestretching Carl Valeri could not connect.

In a dangerous period for Japan, Tim Cahill''s headerforced a desperate one-handed save from Kawashima momentslater as the Socceroos upped the ante.

Lucas Neill, Cahill and Kewell then linked well on thehalf-hour mark, only for the former Liverpool man''shalf-volley to hit the side-netting.

Holger Osieck''s side had only conceded one goal ahead ofthe final and Japan were struggling to penetrate their defenceuntil Ryoichi Maeda finally found himself in space on the edgeof the area, only to hook his shot over the bar.

Japan were working hard to build attacks, but they werebreaking down too easily.

As they did in the first half, Australia came out afterthe break with real verve and almost took the lead on 49minutes when Luke Wilkshire''s cross hit the bar and Cahilltried to bundle in the rebound.


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Comment on this article

  • anil, mulki/spain

    Mon, Jan 31 2011

    australia is in australia continent.... then how come.... its competing in ASIA CUP???????
    IS AUSIS IS IN NO MORE AUSTRALIA continent...???????//

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Nilesh, Qatar

    Sun, Jan 30 2011

    Good Coverage Alexbhai. You rocks with photo graphy.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Precilla /Dsouza, Vamadapadau /Israel

    Sun, Jan 30 2011

    "Congratulations" japan ur asias super power winning 4th time asian cup well done ur unity brings u all success every time u all play best of luck 2022 world cup in brazil wish u every success in the future

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • rajesh george, Kerala/ Qatar

    Sun, Jan 30 2011

    Good match between Japan vs Australia.My favorite team won the cup.Congrats

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

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