Following a six-month delay due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic, the AFC Champions League gets underway in Qatar from Monday. Clubs from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan will be seen in action.

Commenting on the return of continental football, Nasser Al Khater, CEO of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, said, “The AFC Champions League is a prestigious tournament that we are honoured to host.

"We are particularly thrilled to have been able to step in and help the AFC at this late stage of the tournament and play a role in facilitating the gradual, safe return of Asian football to stadiums – on behalf of football lovers around the world.”

In the 2020-21 season, Indian Super League club FC Goa will play in the group stages of the competition, making it the first Indian club reach that stage.

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Taking precautions

Al Khater also weighed in on the safety measures that will be in place to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. “From the very beginning, we have worked with the Qatar Football Association, the Qatar Stars League and the Asian Football Confederation to ensure that all possible safety precautions are taken so that the tournament is delivered safely for everyone involved," he said.

"This includes putting in place a series of measures at every step of the user journey from arrival at Hamad International Airport to hotels, training sites and stadiums.”

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Warming up

Three of the four stadiums - Al Janoub, Education City, and Khalifa International Stadiums - being used during the AFC Champions League will all host matches at the FIFA World Cup in 2022. And Al Khater thinks this is the ideal warm-up for the West Asian country ahead of the big-ticket event.

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“The AFC Champions League will be yet another substantial event that Qatar will host as one of the numerous test events, to maximize our preparedness well ahead of the FIFA World Cup in just over two years from now.

"Hosting the AFC will be an important test to ensure its readiness to host matches through to the quarterfinal stages of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” said Al Khater.

“We are particularly excited to showcase once again our innovative cooling technology that will guarantee a temperature of 18 to 24 degrees Celsius at a time when we still haven’t yet made it through the summer’s heat."