The World Cup in Qatar will kick off a day earlier than scheduled, governing body FIFA said on Thursday after its ruling bureau agreed unanimously to hold the opening ceremony and the host nation’s first match on Sunday, Nov. 20.
The original plan was for the opening ceremony to be held before Qatar’s game on Nov. 21 against Ecuador, which would have created the unusual situation of two matches – Senegal v Netherlands and England v Iran – being held before the ceremony.
Normally, the ceremony is conducted before the kick-off of the first game of the tournament.
Hosts Qatar will now make their World Cup debut against Ecuador at 1900 local time after an opening ceremony at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium.
The change is in line with the long-standing tradition of opening matches involving hosts or holders.
The Group A match between Senegal and Netherlands, originally scheduled to be the tournament opener, has been pushed back by six hours from 1300 local time on Nov. 21 to the 1900 slot vacated by Qatar v Ecuador.
The plan has been signed off by a committee comprising of the heads of FIFA’s six regional confederations and president Gianni Infantino.
“The decision followed an assessment of the competition and operational implications, as well as a thorough consultation process and an agreement with key stakeholders and the host country,” FIFA said.
The change stretches the World Cup to 29 days until the Dec. 18 final and comes after several rounds of ticket sales, with organisers having sold 1.8 million tickets so far.
“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,” FIFA added.
“In addition, FIFA will seek to address any issues arising from this change in a case-by-case basis.”
It will be the first World Cup staged in the Middle East and has been pushed back to later in the year than its typical June-July schedule to avoid the region’s punishing summer heat.
Photo Credit: Getty
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