AFC Champions League: Host Qatar the tournament's other winner
The coronavirus-interrupted 2020 AFC Champions League was completed last weekend, thanks in no small part to Qatar's successful hosting of the tournament.
More than 10 months after it began on 10 February, the curtain came down on the coronavirus-interrupted 2020 AFC Champions League last weekend.
The suspension of all sports activity after the outbreak of the pandemic left the future of the competition in the balance, given the difficulty of organising matches amid restrictions on movement between countries. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) was therefore forced to look for solutions to save the tournament.
And together with the Qatar Football Association and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy - the body responsible for organising the 2022 World Cup - it was agreed that Qatar would host the AFC Champions League west-region matches at the end of September, with 15 clubs taking part amid strict safety measures. The availability of the stadiums built for Qatar 2022 proved a lifeline for the AFC in its mission of completing the tournament.
After the great success of this experience, it was decided that Qatar would stage the east-region matches - involving 16 clubs - in addition to the tournament final, played at Al Janoub Stadium. This represented a great challenge for the World Cup hosts - one they again proved more than equal to.
Along with South Korean team Ulsan Hyundai, who beat Iranians Persepolis to lift the trophy on Saturday, Qatar is undoubtedly the other winner to emerge from the 2020 AFC Champions League. The country will benefit greatly from this experience, not only because its World Cup staff and volunteers were able to hone their organisational capacities, but also because it successfully put tournament infrastructure and stadiums - Khalifa International, Al Janoub and Education City - to the test.
After the AFC Champions League final, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy took to social media to tweet: ”Congratulations to @ulsanFC on being crowned champions of @TheAFCCL in the final match that was played earlier today at the #Qatar2022 venue Al Janoub Stadium!”