With a little over 150 days to go for the first-ever FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the local organising committee is confident of delivering a memorable tournament.

With the infrastructure for the global showpiece in place, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for the winter World Cup is working towards enhancing the fan experience, according to the Communications executive director Fatma Al Nuaimi.

Ever since Qatar was awarded the hosting rights in 2010, the country has been under the scanner on several issues.

“It has been quite a journey. When we won the rights, we were scrutinised by the media for a lot of topics from corruption and human rights issues to the worker's welfare.

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For us, it's about reassuring those concerns and using the World Cup as a catalyst for change. If you look at the social aspect of the tournament, which is the worker’s welfare and human rights, the development and transformation that have happened in the 10 years are major for us.

A lot of things have been exaggerated. We introduced a new minimum wage and people can easily change their jobs. 100000 people have successfully changed their jobs since then. The entry and exit to and from the country has been changed to the benefit of the workers,” said Fatma.

Fatma played down the concerns that it would be an expensive World Cup for the fans and pointed to the demand for tickets from around the globe.

“There was a lot of speculation on if people will not attend or boycott the World Cup. We have had plenty of interest in the first and second phases of ticket sales. People want to come to the tournament and want to be there. The top countries who have applied for the tickets are Argentina, Mexico, USA, UK, UAE and Germany among others. Football is really popular and people can’t wait because it's the first big gathering in football since Covid-19,” she said.

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Fatma hopes the World Cup can help change the perception of Qatar to the outside world. "I hope the World Cup shows a better image and better understanding of the region.

There is a negative misconception of us in the media. The biggest takeaway for us from the World Cup would be them [fans] leaving with good memories and a better understanding of the region. That will be the biggest benefit of hosting such an event here," she said.

(The writer is in Qatar at the invitation of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)