WORLD CUP 2022

2022 Qatar World Cup stadium inaugurations stir bittersweet memories for Xavi

Two 2022 World Cup venues have been inaugurated - the Al-Khalifa International and Al-Janoub and Al-Sadd's Xavi Hernández has different memories of both stadiums.

2022 Qatar World Cup stadium inaugurations stir bittersweet memories for Xavi
KARIM JAAFAR

Out of the eight stadiums which will host matches at 2022 World Cup Qatar, two have already been inaugurated - Al-Khalifa International and Al-Janoub, both were unveiled to host the Emir of Qatar Cup final. Xavi Hernández, now coach at Al-Sadd coach as well as an ambassador for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (who are in charge of managing the projects relating to the 2022 World Cup), has bittersweet memories of both stadiums. At the Al-Khalifa International stadium, he won the Emir of Qatar Cup as a player with Al-Sadd in 2017, but it was at the Al-Janoub a couple of years later where his team’s chances of lifting the title again were dashed following a 4-1 defeat to Al-Duhail.

Xavi won the Emir of Qatar Cup for the first time in 2017 at the Al-Khalifa International stadiumthe first of the eight World Cup venues to be inaugurated; he played a crucial role in that victory, as Al-Sadd beat Al-Rayyan 2-1, supplying Algerian winger Jugurtha Hamroun with the killer pass to strike home the winner in stoppage time. As the captain, Xavi went up to receive the Cup, in doing so, became the first player to lift a trophy at the Al-Khalifa International stadium.

Two years later, at the Al-Janoub stadium, Xavi suffered his first disappointment at one of Qatar's World Cup venues. His Al-Sadd were back contesting the Emir of Qatar Cup - this time against Al-Duhail in May 2019. Despite Al-Sadd taking an early lead, Al-Duhail responded with four goals to serve Xavi and Co. a painful defeat and lift the Cup. The sadness on Xavi’s face was clear to see on the final whistle. He would have liked nothing more than to have brought a glittering playing career and his four years at Al-Sadd to an end with another piece of silverware but it wasn’t to be.

Other kinds of pressure

With the inauguration of the remaining six 2022 World Cup venues, Xavi now faces a different of pressure and responsibility to the kind he was under as a player. Now in charge at Al-Sadd, he hopes to guide his team to the final of the Emir of Qatar Cup and win it as a coach. If that doesn’t happen then he will have enough to keep him busy as ambassador of the Supreme Committee.