DOHA, QATAR — With the 2022 World Cup still more than a decade away, Qatar’s first chance to prove it can hold a major soccer tournament arrives Friday when the Asian Cup begins in the tiny desert nation.

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DOHA, QATAR — With the 2022 World Cup still more than a decade away, Qatar’s first chance to prove it can hold a major soccer tournament arrives Friday when the Asian Cup begins in the tiny desert nation.

Post  kaka2011 on Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:00 am

Doha is still buzzing after overcoming rival bids from the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea to claim the 2022 World Cup. Now the hard work begins.

Qatar faces intense pressure to avoid any embarrassing mishaps like those that afflicted India in October before the Commonwealth Games as India tried to showcase a country desperate for international recognition as more than just a wealthy mercenary that could buy talent and put up skyscrapers.

The hot weather — which dogged Qatar’s 2022 bid from the start — will not be an issue. The Asian Cup, which runs until Jan. 29, was moved from its normal summer timetable.

The biggest challenge will most likely be logistics. Tens of thousands of soccer fans will stream in for the 16-team tournament that features heavyweights like Japan, South Korea, Australia and Saudi Arabia. They are counting on a transportation network with no subway system and a haphazard fleet of buses and taxis. The ticketing system at all six stadiums has not been tested on a grand scale since the 2006 Asian Games were held here.

And then there is the question of what to do for three weeks outside the stadiums. Will fans be charmed by the souks and desert scenery or grumble that they cannot buy beer outside the four- or five-star hotels in this conservative Muslim country?

“Winning the right to host the World Cup will significantly increase the pressure for Qatar to make the Asian Cup a success,” said Simon Chadwick, a sports marketing expert at Coventry University in England who visited the country a few weeks before it won the 2022 bid.

“The eyes of the world will be on the country, as people seek to establish whether or not Qatar really does have the credentials or not to host major sporting events. This raises the first big challenge the country faces: Getting the external message and the external image right; in other words, organizers need to make sure that those in Qatar for the tournament, as well as those observing from afar, get as positive a feeling about the country as possible.”

For the likes of Australia and North Korea, the tournament offers a chance to put World Cup troubles behind them.

Others, like Iran, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia — who were not in South Africa last year— see the Asian Cup as their best chance of grabbing an international trophy. Then there are the minnows like Syria, Jordan and India, teams that see the tournament as a rare opportunity to display their skills on a prominent stage.

“This cup is very important,” said Syria striker Zyad Chaabo, whose team is ranked 107th in the world. “We all like to play in the Asian Cup because the World Cup is out of reach for us. Reaching the finals in Asia Cup after such a long time is very important. We hope that we will prove to the world that we deserve reaching the finals.”

The favorites this year are the same as in past tournaments. It is a small club that since 1956 has included three-time champions Iran, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Australia, making its second appearance in the tournament, has one of the stronger teams, as does two-time winner South Korea, which would like to end a 50-year title drought.

But as Australia found out in 2007, being a favorite with plenty of big-name players does not mean all that much. It lost on penalties to Japan in the quarterfinals, and the eventual winner was Iraq, which set off wild celebrations in the war-torn country.

In the first week, fans can watch Iran and Iraq face each other. Australian and India — fierce cricket rivals — will compete in a rare soccer match, while South Korea and North Korea could compete in the knockout stage.

South Korean loses post

Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan was elected a FIFA vice president Thursday, beating incumbent Chung Mong-joon of South Korea in an election by the Asian Football Confederation, The Associated Press reported from Doha.

Prince Ali won the vote 25 to 20 at a gathering of the 45-nation A.F.C. The result most likely ends Chung’s ambition of possibly challenging Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency in June. In the end, Chung became a victim of his troubled relationship with A.F.C. president Mohamed bin Hammam, who ran unopposed and was re-elected.

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