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Hassan Al Thawadi

The 2022 FIFA World Cup™ has the potential to positively change the destiny of Qatar and the region, according to the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC).

Speaking on Wednesday to commemorate the 'four years to go' countdown to the tournament, H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi told BeIN Sports that Qatar 2022 is not simply about 28 days of football, but leaving a lasting legacy to benefit future generations.

"This is not a tournament just to bring people over, celebrate football and leave," he said. "If you truly understand what this does for you, for a nation; it changes lives. It can change history. It can change perceptions, economies, societies and industries.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the region – a region that is absolutely crazy about the sport. The people of this region live, drink and breathe football. Plain and simple. It's the one common denominator."

In a wide-ranging interview, Al Thawadi also discussed a number of pertinent issues around the impact of the tournament – both on Qatar and across the region. One such issue was its accessibility. Since implementing an illegal blockade of Qatar in June 2017, a number of neighbouring countries have prevented their citizens from travelling to Qatar – a rule the Qatar has not reciprocated, with its borders remaining open to all.

Al Thawadi said he hopes the political situation will have changed by 2022 and reiterated the positive sentiment in relation to the tournament across the region, including citizens of blockading countries.

"From day one, our goal and our aim was that this is not a Qatari bid," he explained. "This was an Arab, Middle Eastern bid – first and foremost.

"We recently opened up our volunteer programme for people to register. Today we are at 250,000, and among them are people from the blockading nations.

"So if you ask me whether there is a desire from the people of the region to celebrate, to participate, to be part of this World Cup? Absolutely. And are we welcoming them? We will welcome them with open arms."

The Secretary General also addressed recent speculation surrounding the potential expansion of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ from 32 to 48 teams – saying plans remain firmly on course to deliver a tournament format as per the bid promise.

He said: "There is a feasibility study that is currently ongoing. From our side we are continuing with preparations for a 32-team format.

"There are a lot of issues that need to be assessed and addressed. I don't want to pre-conclude what will be out there, but as of today it's a 32-team World Cup."

To mark the four years to kick-off countdown, FIFA President Gianni Infantino also added his own words of excitement. Speaking to FIFATV, he said: "I think that all the ingredients are there to make the World Cup in 2022 an unforgettable event.

"The only message I can really give to everyone in the world who loves football is come to Qatar, come to the Middle East, to the Gulf, in 2022, and enjoy the best World Cup ever."