Many Arab and Gulf football stars hold unforgettable memories of Khalifa International Stadium, which originally opened in 1976 and has played a pivotal role the region’s sporting history.
The former president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), Ahmed Eid, witnessed the opening of the historic arena. In an interview with SC.qa, he expressed his happiness over the completion of the redevelopment of the first proposed host venue for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar.
He said: “I have witnessed great events staged at this sports venue, particularly the fifth Gulf Cup of Nations in 1976, which proved to be a golden milestone in the history of the game across the region.”
Being one of the most celebrated goalkeepers in the region, Eid represented the Saudi national team on 25 occasions during his playing career. Later he plied his trade for different clubs, including Al Ahli Club, until he was elected to run the football governing body in his country and presided over SAFF for five years, from 2011 until 2016.
“Today, after being fully renovated and expanded, and with the introduction of state-of-the-art cooling technology, which is unprecedented in the region, we are genuinely grateful and appreciative of those who stand behind this remarkable accomplishment,” he added.
He continued: “I firmly believe that Khalifa International Stadium will keep up its magnificent role as the beating heart of sporting tradition in Qatar, embracing football fans from all over the world, looking forward to the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar.”
The winner of the best goalkeeper award at the Gulf Cup of Nations in 1970 added: “Football in its core depends on bold decisions, and the redevelopment of this arena is truly a gigantic step in the journey towards 2022. The first ever tournament in the Middle East region, which we will all ensure is a success at all levels without exception, is driven by the passionate desire to develop football worldwide.”
Reminiscing about the history of the Gulf Cup of Nations, Eid said: “The first chapters of the Gulf Cup of Nations actually started with Faisal bin Fahad Stadium, then with Khalifa International Stadium, and later on with King Fahad International Stadium.”
He concluded: “When we remember those bygone days, we realise that those arenas played a crucial role in sporting innovation, with the best example being the fifth Gulf Cup of Nations that was hosted by Khalifa International Stadium, as well as the 1992 edition that Qatar won.”
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