The calm and quiet is a stark contrast to the roar of a World Cup stadium — but it is quite deliberate.
For the first time at the tournament, special “sensory rooms” have been created at three stadiums in Qatar where children, teens and young adults with autism or similar disabilities can retreat when the big-match atmosphere becomes too much.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said that Qatar 2022 will be “the most accessible World Cup ever.” There is also to be commentaries for the blind and unprecedented measures to get fans with disabilities into stadiums.
There has been a “massive” response to the sensory rooms, said Alison Saraf, who is part of the project as the founder of a shop to help autistic children in Doha.
Organizers say that nearly all of the special stadium and room tickets have been sold.
For many people with autism, noise is an agonizing experience.
The rooms are intended to help those who could become “overwhelmed,” Saraf said.
“It would be a calm place for them to kind of relax and regulate,” she said.
The cacophony from fans is an integral part of soccer, but these World Cup oases of calm can be found in al-Bayt Stadium, the venue of the opening match, Lusail Iconic Stadium where the final is to be played on Dec. 18, and Education City Stadium, which is to host eight games.
There would be six other rooms near fan zones around Doha.
The rooms can accommodate at least 10 people and have big tinted windows where the fans can watch events in seclusion.
At al-Bayt, there is soft lighting from fiber optical and LED lamps, colored mattresses and sensory rugs that offer a range of distracting, tactile fun for children and young people for whom a soccer match might have long been out of bounds.
There are also noise-canceling headphones, padded blankets to roll around on, and anti-stress toys.
“Sometimes it gets a bit too overwhelming within the stadium bowl,” said Hala Ousta, FIFA’s diversity and accessibility manager.
Specialists want the spectators to spend as much time as possible in their stadium seats.
“It’s not meant to be necessarily separation and a ‘them and us’ situation,” Saraf said. “It really is to let them experience the game. And then for them to slowly become used to it.”
The English club Watford opened a sensory room in 2016 and others have followed suit. Discussions started in Qatar in 2016 and sensory rooms were opened for the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019 and the Arab Cup last year.
“This is the first time it’s happened in a World Cup tournament,” said Mark Dyer, who is in charge of accessibility for Qatar’s organizing committee.
The tournament, which starts on Sunday when Qatar take on Ecuador, would also feature an app where visually impaired fans can listen to commentaries in Arabic and English.
SIGNS OF CALM: After his third explanation for his absence, which has drawn the ire of fans and politicians, some critics said his latest apology seemed sincere Lionel Messi denied his absence from a match in Hong Kong two weeks ago that angered China was a political snub, but was caused by an injury. The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner is idolized by fans in China, but stayed on the bench during Inter Miami’s 4-1 win in a pre-season tour match against a Hong Kong select XI on Feb. 4. A near 40,000 sellout crowd, who had paid upwards of HK$1,000 (US$128) to see the 36-year-old superstar in action, chanted “refund,” gave thumbs-down signs and booed Messi and the team’s co-owner David Beckham after the final whistle. Some nationalist politicians interpreted
A leading Australian equestrian’s buildup to a fourth Olympics was thrown into disarray yesterday after he was stood down from competition for wearing a “mankini” swimsuit during a showjumping event. Three-time Olympic medalist Shane Rose wore the skimpy fluorescent orange outfit — popularized in the movie Borat — on his horse during a competition near Sydney earlier this month where riders were encouraged to wear “extraordinary costumes.” Rose, 50, said on social media that he had been stood down by governing body Equestrian Australia (EA) while it conducts a review after receiving complaints. “I am truly sorry if I have offended anyone,” Rose
Taiwanese infielder Yu Chang (張育成) has signed a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays and is invited to the team’s spring training camp, the team announced Tuesday. The 28-year-old, who reported to the club’s spring training facility on Tuesday, told MLB.com he had received minor league offers from 10 teams, but signed with the Rays because of the positive experience he had on the team in 2022. “I feel like people make me comfortable here -- not only like coaches, [but the] teammates and everyone here,” he told the site. Chang, who made his MLB debut in 2019, played with the
SUPERSTAR SHOWDOWN: WNBA single-season three-point record holder Ionescu said the shoot-out would show young girls and boys that ‘if you can shoot, you can shoot’ Stephen Curry on Saturday sank his last four shots from the right corner to defeat Sabrina Ionescu 29-26 in a three-point NBA-WNBA Challenge at the NBA All-Star festivities. Ionescu set the score to beat, matching the best numbers by any player in the NBA Three-Point Contest, only for Curry to rally late for the victory, then hug Ionescu as both celebrated a successful effort. “I knew I had to get hot,” Curry said of his closing run to win the challenge champion’s belt. The first-ever shoot-out of the sexes was a groundbreaking showdown between elite guards — Golden State’s Curry, the NBA’s all-time