Messi’s next house. Spy the place where the Argentine team will live during the World Cup in Qatar

text of Alexander Casar Gonzalez

July 20, 2022

DOHA.- Qatar is Gulliver’s country. Here, everything is XL. There are no streets, but avenues or highways. Nor studio apartments or low houses. The buildings compete to see which of all reaches the sky first. Most belong to the central government, an elephantine state. But even educational, health, justice or security institutions are gigantic.
The University of Qatar (Qatar University), The emirate’s main undergraduate and postgraduate study center is no exception. In the months of November and December You will have illustrious guests. They will not be trained in their classrooms: they will seek the dream of a third World Cup for Argentina. This property of more than 25 thousand square kilometers will shelter the illusions of the albiceleste delegation. And more than 47 million fans on the other side of the world. The main access road to the property has palm trees on both sides. Suddenly, a gate with the university logo. The classic cream color, which dominates all the buildings, competes here with the green of freshly cut grass. Beyond what is taught in classrooms and on campus, this house of higher studies boasts of offering its students the chance to play 30 different sports. Soccer, of course, is one of them. And, in fact, it is the one that is usually played in the multipurpose stadium.

AML photo
AML photo
AML photo
The next home of Messi and company. The University of Qatar, the main center for undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the emirate, will host the Argentine and Spanish teams

More than one club in the Argentine Professional League would envy this venue with capacity for 10,000 spectators, top quality grass and artificial light. If that figure is surprising, in 2023 they will make reforms to bring the capacity to 22,400 people. Qatar thinks big: it wants to organize the 2027 Asian Cup and its intention is that this stadium, in which the Argentine team could play a friendly match in the run-up to the World Cup, be one of the venues. About a five-minute drive is enough to reach the two courts where Lionel Scaloni will test variations and test the different formations. A white-painted building dominates the scene. There are no frills, but nothing is lacking either. Two changing rooms with all the comforts (jacuzzis and hyperbaric chambers included), video room and office for the coach. Even a doctor’s office. Everything, monitored by security cameras, true digital eyes of the Ministry of the Interior, the authority responsible for ensuring that nothing unpleasant happens to any delegation. When they do not go out on the field, the Argentine soccer players will distribute their time between this training camp and the building where they will sleep, located a five-minute walk away: this meager distance was the main attribute that Scaloni highlighted in the arena after the game against Venezuela, the last of the South American qualifiers in Argentine territory.“Everything will be marked and guarded so that there are no onlookers. Only personnel who are authorized will enter the property, ”they say at the university before the consultation of LA NACION.

The venue where the team will stay

AML photo

The selected team will occupy a four-story building with 85 rooms, which will be adorned with gigantographs of the team and in which light blue and white colors will abound, as happened in Bronnitsy (Russia 2018) and Cidade do Galo (Brazil 2014), the last two bunkers of the albiceleste team. “The construction is being refurbished at the request of the AFA. Even the people who usually sleep and work there have been relocated”, they explain, when asked about the place where Lionel Messi and his teammates will rest. For now, the site is not traversable. The same happens with another module similar to the one that will occupy the campus, which will probably be destined for the families of the soccer players who travel to Qatar. “The AFA chose the Qatar University campus for a host of factors,” Amna Pervaiz, from the university’s Department of Communications and Public Relations, tells LA NACION. And she adds: “Among them is the excellent reputation of the university in sports programs. The infrastructure available to practice sports allows us to meet the requirements of soccer teams in terms of safety, logistics and health.” Pervaiz confirms that the AFA requested specific questions to “give an Argentine touch” to the place: Nobody rules out (or corroborates, for now) that one of those aggregates is the typical Argentine grill, like the one on the Ezeiza property and which is usually be the epicenter of meals between the footballers and the coaching staff of the selected team.
guardedWhat about security? The university spokeswoman responds: “The access controls to the property will be under the control of the security officers of the Argentine campus, the officials of the Qatar University and the teams of the Ministry of the Interior.”Keeping an eye on access all the time will not be an easy task. Above all, after it was announced that Argentina will not be the only team that will train in this place. Here will also come another heavyweight with aspirations to win the tournament: Spain. “The sports infrastructure will be divided for two teams, Argentina and Spain. The same will happen with the space available for hotels and entertainment”, says Pervai. Strictly speaking, the 33 training fields (32 for the 40 teams and one more for the referees) have identical amenities: two natural grass fields with artificial lighting, a parking area, a tribune for the public, changing rooms for soccer players and coaches, a press conference, rest room and catering, place for media and TV channels, first aid room, offices, rehabilitation areas and gym. Most of these bunkers were used during the 2021 Arab Cup, the tournament that served as a test bed for the World Cup.

AML photo
The main field of the property. Qatar University has a wide range of sports for its students and football is one of the preferred disciplines

The agenda for the practice days will be simple: after having breakfast in the building-hotel, the Argentine soccer players will walk the route that separates them from the training ground. They will change in one of the two changing rooms and be ready to go out on the court. There, a detail: the grass will be identical in all the fields, and it was provided by the committee for the legacy of Qatar 2022. All teams, then, will train under the same conditions. Argentina will have two courts available: a main one, with a bench of substitutes, and a grandstand in which, probably, the accredited press will crowd to follow the practices. The goals are mobile, so Scaloni will be able to play soccer in small spaces or propose exercises in a specific sector of the field. In addition, the place has artificial light, so night workouts will be possible. Thus, the DT born in Pujato (Santa Fe) will be able to imitate the conditions of the debut match, against Saudi Arabia, which will start at 22 (Qatar time). Sport is one more item in the study program at this university, which offers 48 undergraduate degrees, 23 master’s degrees and nine doctorates. It is not a new entity (it was founded in 1971): what is new is its dedication to the sport. It gives its students the opportunity to practice various disciplines in different training centers, divided into three complexes. According to the website, the more than 30 gyms and courts can be used alternatively to play volleyball, basketball, indoor tennis, handball, futsal, badminton and squash. It also has an aquatic center: three pools (one Olympic, another for ornamental jumps and a third for learning). There is a recreation space, which contains a sauna and Jacuzzis with hot and cold water. The confirmation that both Argentina and Spain will cradle their World Cup dreams in the facilities of this university was national news in Qatar. “The university welcomes Argentina, which has selected it as the venue for its team for the World Cup,” said Dr. Hassan Al-Derham, president of the institution, in a statement. And he added: “The AFA delegation visited the university, its amenities and its accommodation modules. Each construction has the best infrastructure, in line with international specifications, and with our desire to always serve with the best”.

AML photo
AML photo
AML photo
Mod cons. The interior of the venue where the players will live during the World Cup

The Qatar University campus is in a strategic location: equidistant from Hamad International Airport and Lusail Stadium. In just 20 minutes by car you can reach both places. Stadium 974, the scene of the match against Poland, is even closer: less than 15 minutes. Always on the highway; always, without toll. But, in addition, those who have to go to the training place will be able to do it without problems through the metro (there is a station on the red line). That yes, once it comes to the surface the visitor can take about half an hour to reach the soccer fields where Messi and company will practice. So the warning is simple: if you use the metro you have to go with time.
a wink of fateThe paths of the University of Qatar and Argentina crossed thanks to a wink of fate. Penalties knocked out Egypt against Senegal in Africa’s World Cup qualifier. The Pharaohs had already reserved the property, which would be theirs exclusively if they got the ticket to the ecumenical event. Being eliminated, this place was vacant. And so, after the visit of Claudio Tapia (president of the AFA) and Walter Samuel (Scaloni’s assistant), the Argentine team became the new tenant.
The fans of the cabals are excited to account. This venue was selected by Jürgen Klopp to prepare for the 2019 Club World Cup with Liverpool. The English team kept the trophy after beating Flamengo, champion of the Copa Libertadores, in the final. More than 47 million Argentines will want history to repeat itself. And that instead of the Dutchman Virgil van Dijk the one who lifts the trophy is a certain Lionel Messi.

Credits

I shared