FIFA has moved the start of the upcoming World Cup in Qatar forward by one day to allow the host nation to play after an opening ceremony on Sunday, November 20.
The football governing body confirmed the decision on Thursday, saying that it followed an assessment of the “competition and operational implications” and consultations with stakeholders and the host nation.
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“The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking the start of the FIFA World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions,” FIFA said in a statement.
The opening game was set to be an encounter between Senegal and the Netherlands on November 21. After Thursday’s decision, that match was moved to six hours later, taking the evening spot previously allocated to Qatar v Ecuador.
The opening ceremony and first game will take place at the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of the Qatari capital Doha.
“The FIFA World Cup 2022 will kick off with an even greater celebration for local and international fans as host country Qatar will now play Ecuador on Sunday, 20 November at 19:00 (16:00 GMT) as part of a stand-alone event,” FIFA said.
This year’s edition brings the World Cup to the Arab World for the first time.
The 2022 World Cup is also the first in the tournament’s 92-year history to be played in November and December. The previous 21 editions were all played between late May and the end of July.
FIFA finalised a decision to play in the northern fall season in 2015 to avoid Qatar’s summer heat, despite opposition from most European football bodies that were irked by having to shut down their domestic leagues for several peak weeks.
The tournament’s final will take place on December 18, Qatar’s National Day.
“Ticket holders will be duly notified by email that the relevant matches have been rescheduled and their tickets will remain valid irrespective of the new date/time. In addition, FIFA will seek to address any issues arising from this change in a case-by-case basis,” FIFA said on Thursday.