Football fever returns to Qatar with the AFC Asian Cup

Following the immensely successful delivery of the FIFA World Cup 2022TM tournament in Qatar, which was voted the best this century, Qatar is gearing up to welcome the world once more with the AFC Asian Cup 2023TM from January 12 - February 10, 2024.The AFC Asian Cup 2023TM demonstrates Qatar’s ongoing sporting legacy and showcases Qatar’s ability to host large-scale events and welcome visitors from across the globe with its world-class tourism infrastructure, which includes an award-winning airport Hamad International Airport and national airline Qatar Airways, metro and tram network (which carried over 18.2 million passengers during the FIFA World Cup2022TM), inviting hotels, and leisure attractions. In addition, Qatar will be abuzz with some of the biggest events of the year during the AFC Asian Cup 2023TM, providing visitors and residents with a packed itinerary of things to do and see pre- and post- matches.On this occasion, His Excellency, Mr. Saad Bin Ali Al-Kharji, Chairman of Qatar Tourism, said: "We are pleased to host the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023TM this year, with its events extending from 12th January to 10th February. Visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy exciting times and explore many tourist attractions in Qatar. Qatar Tourism will offer a rich array of exciting events and festivals that will amuse both Qatar's residents and its visitors. The kickoff of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023TM coincides with the organization of various festivals and events, including Shop Qatar, Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition (DJWE), Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF), Qatar Kite Festival, and International Horticultural Doha Expo 2023, which continues until late March. Additionally, there will be a series of musical and entertainment events that together form an unforgettable and exceptional experience."He added, "Over the past years, Qatar has successfully become a distinguished sports tourism destination, due to its advanced infrastructure, sports facilities, and medical facilities. This is in addition to the diversity of sports events it hosts, especially FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. Qatar has demonstrated to the world its hospitality, exceptional organization, complemented by the presence of luxurious tourist facilities and the picturesque landscapes that characterize the destination."KEY EVENTSShop Qatar 2024Shop Qatar will be running from January 1 to 27, 2024, with incredible discounts in stores, raffle draws, and entertainment spread out in malls. There are a total of 13 malls and shopping districts participating, which residents can explore, with 100s of shops featuring different offers and entertainment.Qatar International Food Festival 2024The all-time fan favourite, Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF), is set to return on February 7 – 17 at Family Zone Expo at Al Bidda Park this time. With one of the broadest ranges of cuisine in one space, QIFF is one of the most popular events in Qatar, with over 100 dishes for people to choose from. Head over to the QIFF after a game to satisfy your cravings and socialise with other food enthusiasts.Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition 2024 DJWEThe Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition 2024(DJWE) will be held at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center from February 5 to 11, 2024, with unique displays and products. Immerse yourself in the highest-quality, most aesthetic and luxurious jewellery at this exhibition.Doha Expo 2023One of the main events of 2023 continuing into 2024 is the Doha Expo 2023, which will run until March 28. Doha Expo 2023 has been a platform for people in Qatar to engage with local and international agricultural organisations. It is the first ever A1 international horticultural exhibition in the MENA region. Residents can enjoy several other events at the Expo as well, such as immersing themselves in virtual reality, participating in innovative workshops, exploring the botanic garden, or simply sipping on some coffee in the Cultural Zone.Museums and ExhibitionsThe Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art is hosting several exhibitions until March 2024, to satiate one’s curiosity of arts and culture. Some of these include Mehdi Moutashar: Introspection as Resistance, Distilled Lessons: Abstraction in Arab Modernism, Cities Under Quarantine: The Mailbox Project, and De/Constructed Meanings.Close to Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium is the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum in Al Samriya. Fans who have some time to spare pre- or post-match can learn about His Excellency Sheikh Faisal, one of the most influential and revolutionary businessmen in Qatar. The museum boasts traditional Syrian craftsmanship, artefacts dating back to the Jurassic age, antique automobiles, and rustic carpets, to name a few.Nature escapesBalancing football cheers with moments of solitude, fans can take respite at the Aspire Park, Qatar’s biggest park with lush green spaces, walking tracks and cozy cafes. In Education City, there is Oxygen Park, which has walking tracks and football fields to practice, and the Qu’aranic Botanic Garden, a unique garden which features plants mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah.Alternatively, if you are looking for a nearby place to relax and rejuvenate post-matches, you can also visit the Heenat Salma Farm, which is a 20-minute drive away from the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium. The farm offers organic products, crafts, creative workshops and vocational training, and wellness spas, making it a perfect spot for a relaxing weekend retreat, or simply a visit to stimulate your artistic side.Concerts and MusicFor those with the appreciation of the art that is music, Qatar is hosting various music artists across three locations in the country. At Hotel Park in West Bay, visitors and residents can enjoy Arab singer Wafeek Habeeb’s music on January 17, electronic music by ‘Swedish House Mafia’ on January 19, performances by the renowned band ‘Backstreet Boys’ on January 26, and internationally-recognised pop band ‘OneRepublic’ on February 1. For tickets, visit: the Katara Ampitheatre, music lovers can watch performances by Arab singers Modi and Rehab Al Shamrani on January 27, Lebanese artist Najwa Karam on February 1, Moroccan-French performer Amine Boudchar on February 8, and Egyptian singer Amal Maher on February 11. For tickets visit: Qatar National Convention Centre will be hosting the established artist Nassif Zeytoun on February 3.Hello AsiaAs the pleasant winter weather sets on the country, the Lusail Boulevard and Plaza is welcoming fans for its ‘Hello Asia’ festival which will take place on January 10– February 10, 2024. The Boulevard is getting ready to be decked with stunning lighting, cultural flags and décor, and F&B kiosks to entertain and encourage fans to show support for their countries’ teams. There will be 24 country zones, such as Qatar, China, India, South Korea, and Lebanon to name a few. Fans are welcome to enjoy entertainment, and to show support for the national teams through this artistic parade and exhibit at Lusail.Modern ArchitectureQatar is no stranger to modern architecture. Fans headed to Education City Stadium will get a close-up look with the Qatar National Library (QNL) which is structured as a shell made by folding two pieces of paper, or the contemporary design of the Education City Mosque, Minaretein. Both QNL and Minartein are worth exploring on the inside with the library’s café, 3D printing, music studio, and reading nooks, and the mosque’s guided-tour. At Al Wakrah is the Abu Manaratain Mosque, with unconventional architecture from the 1940s to appreciate.AttractionsThe Meryal Waterpark recently opened at Qetaifan Island North, with rides designed to reflect the oil and gas industry’s omnipresence in Qatari culture. One of its rides, the Icon Tower is world’s highest tower of its kind. The annual Winter Wonderland Lusail is now operating on Al Maha Island, near the Lusail Stadium, with 50 rides which encompass 25 family rides, 15 children’s rides, 10 thrill rides, the 395-rollercoaster, and the 150 ft tall Ferris Wheel.Night Markets and BazaarsWithin the premise of the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium is the Duhail Night Market, Qatar’s pioneering night market, with the finest selection of popular finger foods, coffee, and karak. In Al Waab, there is ‘The Downtown’, a new night market at Aspire Park offering different drive-thru restaurants and cafés, where visitors can snack on delicious finger foods and of course, coffee.During the weekend, residents can explore the Torba Farmer’s Market, held every Saturday, in Education City. The market offers local, artisanal products and fresh food for visitors to enjoy. Near Al Janoub Stadium you will find the Souq Al Wakrah, where you can take a stroll by the sea in the serene winter weather, indulge in a range of cuisine, primarily seafood, and explore shops selling traditional Arabian products.For Animal LoversA 20-minute drive away from Ahmed bin Ali Stadium is Al Shahaniya Camel Racetrack, which hosts multiple camel racing events throughout the year. Here, you can enjoy both races and camel training, the latter of which takes place every morning at the centre. Al Shaqab, near Education City Stadium, is also a popular destination for equestrian fans to watch horseback riding events, post-matches. In addition, the Katara International Arabian Horse Festival will run from February 1 till 11, and will showcase different purebred horses in competition with each other. These horses are known to symbolize strength and pride in Arab culture.SportsThe World Aquatics Championships 2024 is taking place from February 2 – 18, 2024 at Aspire Dome, Old Doha Port, and Hamad Aquatic Center. This tournament will be hosting 2, 600 top athletes, from over 190 countries, for 75 medal events, with an opportunity for athletes to quality for Olympic Games Paris 2024. Sports include swimming (including open water and artistic), diving and high diving, and water polo. Residents can witness top-class aquatic performances from athletes from all over the world.

Italy's top-flight football league Lega Serie A inaugurates first MENA office

Italy’s premier professional football league, Lega Serie A, today inaugurated its first Middle East and North Africa (MENA) office in Abu Dhabi at a media event that also saw the launch of the brand's strategic vision and plans for the region.The event was hosted by Lega Serie A’s Michele Ciccarese, Commercial and Marketing Director, Anna Guarnerio, International Media Rights Director, Alfonso De Stefano, Managing Director MENA and Omar Al Hakim, Head of Brand Partnerships MENA.The latest international expansion for the Italian league will enable Lega Serie A to broaden its influence across the MENA region, with an emphasis on the GCC and North Africa. The new MENA office – which is located in Yas Creative Hub on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi – will provide a regional base for the league to increase its fan base in the region by building connections with the 53% of the MENA population who have an interest in football.  The Italian league aims to do this with a strategic plan and roadmap that will unlock opportunities for collaboration with local and regional partners; raise the profile of the league’s iconic clubs, such as Juventus, AC Milan, Fc Inter, As Roma, Ssc Napoli and Lazio; and better engage with the region’s Calcio fans through increased investment in grassroots talent, new charitable activities in regional markets, and bespoke content and content partnerships designed for Millennial and Gen Z audiences. "We are very pleased to continue our global expansion project of the 'Calcio’ product and to face new challenges that represent fundamental steps towards the internationalisation of Italian football," Luigi De Siervo, CEO of Lega Serie A, stated. "With our presence and the opening of the new office, our goal is to be closer to fans and longtime supporters in a strategic market like the Middle East. At the same time, we aim to promote a healthy education of the new generations in the values of sports, involving them both on and off the field through projects with digital experiences. Additionally, we are developing entertainment initiatives for fans by localising events of Lega Serie A that will feature the presence of teams, players, and legends. Thanks to our broadcasters and regional partners, Abu Dhabi Media and Starzplay, we will bring football close to the fans for a unique and immersive experience. We are convinced – De Siervo concluded – that through the spread of our product in these areas, many young talents from the Middle East will have the opportunity to regularly play in Serie A."Commenting on the announcement, Alfonso De Stefano, Managing Director MENA of Lega Serie A, said: “The MENA region is a crucial market for us, with a deep passion for football and a growing interest in the Italian game. There are already an estimated 16 million Lega Serie A fans in the region – half of them under the age of 25 – and connecting with this fan base and with the wider audience of football lovers in the region is our top priority. Our new headquarters strengthens our regional presence, giving us direct access to fans, and opening doors to a range of future collaborations with key stakeholders in our sport and beyond.”At the office opening, Lega Serie A also underscored its commitment to establishing grassroots initiatives to encourage and develop local talent, passion and skill in partnership with regional football associations and training academies.Omar Al Hakim, Head of Brand Partnerships MENA of Lega Serie A, said: “Our mission here is not only to promote Lega Serie A, but also to be a catalyst for football development in the MENA region. We are looking to establish relationships and forge partnerships with organisations who share our values to nurture local talent and promote the appreciation for the sport throughout the region.”To build engagement with football fans, particularly its Gen Z audiences, Lega Serie A recently launched a bilingual English and Arabia Snapchat account to host regionally relevant content – the first such account from a global football league with Arabic content for MENA audiences. The league also confirmed that it will announce a number of new initiatives and content partnerships in the coming months.In 2022, Lega Serie A signed a broadcasting partnership with Abu Dhabi Media and Starzplay, which are now exclusively streaming the league’s matches to audiences across 20 countries in the MENA region.

Football season to boost online retail in MENA to USD 8.4bln

 A report created by Redseer in partnership with TikTok found that the upcoming football tournament in the region will provide a boost to the festive retail season, with a predicted peak gross merchandise value of USD 8.4 billion for online retail, compared to USD 6.5 billion in 2021. When including offline sales, the overlap of the football season with Black Friday will present a massive USD 70 billion opportunity for the retail sector in MENA.The report found that digital media will take the lead in enabling the opportunity with e-commerce, as product discovery is dominated by digital channels. Online searches (69%) were found to be the top channel that respondents plan to use to search for new products during the football season, followed by social media (64%), online customer reviews (63%), and brand/retailer apps (55%).Joanne Chehab, Head of Business Partnerships for Managed Services, Global Business Solutions, MENA – TikTok said: “The upcoming football season is an unparalleled opportunity for brands to tap into a huge, passionate, and highly engaged audience. TikTok will be one of the major channels through which this audience will engage with content; in 2021, there were 129 billion views for the #football hashtag globally on the platform. Prioritizing creativity to build brand-event adjacency, TikTok is the place to be for brands who want to seize the football moment and meet/engage their audience with authentic and impactful stories.”Seventy-two percent of respondents said they use social media to discover content related to their favorite sport, with 70% saying they expect to consume more short form video content during the football season.Akshay Jayaprakasan, Associate Partner, Redseer Middle East said: “The current digital era promises to make this football tournament the most inclusive one, helping it reach people from all walks of life. 93% viewers will watch the world cup with their friends and family, highlighting the theme of togetherness that will run through this period of celebration. Digital media has democratized advertising, ensuring that even smaller brands can find a suitable offering to meet specific needs at a reasonable price. With 83% of football fans, using their smartphone while watching matches, innovative storytelling, leveraging the right formats, will help brands create everlasting brand recall.The report also found that digital ad spend has overtaken traditional ad spend, indicating that brands and retailers should double their focus on digital media during this period to maximize value creation for themselves and their target consumers.Additionally, Creators will have a substantial role to play in driving home meaningful stories for brands. In fact, 80% of respondents said they are influenced by digital media Content Creators to follow football season updates.Aside from retail, the report found that the football tournament will bring a USD 4 billion opportunity through tourist spend, with 51% being attributed to accommodation. Furthermore, the tourist mix will see a higher representation from women and people under 45 than previous tournaments.