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Qatar 2022 – Assessing the Gulf World Cup

Written by on February 2, 2012 | 15 Comments »
Posted in The Training Ground

This contribution is from Shona Black. Shona has been writing about soccer for over a decade, making it the longest-term relationship in her life.

During the festive season of 2010, FIFA announced that Qatar would be hosting the World Cup in 2022. To judge much of the international reaction, they may as well have announced that Santa Claus was dead.

For all the long-term rumblings of corruption and naked venality at football’s top governing body, somehow selecting this tiny, searingly hot, socially repressive desert nation with its scant and indifferent soccer lineage seemed the proverbial last straw, the ultimate betrayal of the world’s game.

How, we wondered, could such a decision possibly claim to be uninfluenced by money? After all, Qatar had seemingly nothing other than vast wealth to recommend it. Even the great Zinedine Zidane, a player so respected and loved his infamous World Cup final headbutt was more celebrated than censured, came under fire for accepting untold sums to act as ambassador for the Qatar 2022 bid.

Yet amid the shocked clamour, some notable positives of the bid went ignored. Some of the technical aspects of the bid show intriguing promise. Qatar 2022 aims to be the first carbon-neutral World Cup, aided by short travelling distances and engineering innovation which will harness solar energy to power and cool the stadiums.

The bid also won brownie points on two fronts with its proposal to dismantle stadiums after the tournament and reconstruct them in developing nations, addressing the perennial problem of “white elephant” construction while neatly giving back to the football community’s neediest.

And in fact, if we pause to give Zidane the benefit of the doubt, his motives may be far from mercenary: famously proud of his Maghrebi roots, it is perfectly reasonable he should back the first Arab World Cup.

At a time when Arab-Western tensions form one of humanity’s most perilous fault-lines, inviting the world to the Arabian Gulf could just be one of the more inspired strokes of football diplomacy.

So when I had the opportunity recently to spend a few days in the Qatari capital of Doha, I went with an open mind, ready and willing to be convinced that Qatar 2022 was not the borderline corrupt perversion of principle it has been portrayed, but perhaps a stroke of diplomatic genius and creative innovation.

After all, who could argue against an event that could bring unprecedented understanding between two cultures at simmeringly dangerous loggerheads?

Unfortunately, an openness to conversion was not enough. The logistical problems that have been most thoroughly thrashed out in the press are the heat (cited by FIFA’s own technical report as “a serious health risk”), congestion (with eight of the twelve stadiums all in Doha, which as yet has no public transportation) and restrictive laws (the prohibition of public drinking and drunken behaviour clearly sounds alarm bells with fans and sponsors alike).

The first two are issues that Qatar just might be able to mitigate with the liberal application of cash: no expense is being spared in designing revolutionary cooling solutions for the stadiums, and in a country where construction occurs at breakneck speed aided by the very best of global architectural and engineering talent, a state-of-the-art transportation system will no doubt be in place with time to spare.

But while the latter problem in theory will be addressed by FIFA’s power to override local laws and policies (  an agreement required from all World Cup hosts), it hints at more subtle but pervasive problems.

Because more challenging than Qatar’s scorching summer heat could be the Qataris’ chilly reception. From my experience, it appears that unless you are a member of the FIFA Executive, being lavishly wined and dined, Qatar is not the most welcoming of locales.

Western visitors in general seem to be greeted with a mix of indifference and discomfort. If the sight of women in modest short sleeves provokes a gamut of unpleasant reactions, it begs speculation on how locals will deal with the typical Brazilian entourage.

No doubt over the next decade, the powers that be in Qatar — those who secured the World Cup in the first place; those responsible for the multi-billion-dollar global charm offensive of the Qatar Foundation — will launch a mighty public awareness programme to prepare their people for the massive, manic World Cup fan onslaught.

Only once the painted, boisterous hordes descend will we know how ready Qatar really is to host the world — or the World Cup.

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15 responses to “Qatar 2022 – Assessing the Gulf World Cup”

  1. Ed Gomes says:

    Whether we like to admit it or not, all of the bids use money in order to garner the tourneys. England and the US boast about how much money FIFA will make off TV and merchandising. They also boast great accomodations for the fans, and even more important for the delegates on their visits.
    Qatar went out and said; how much? FIFA answered and they provided. It sounds sorted, but this is a for profit organization. I rather have FIFA ask for bids that detail events, including profit, instead of delegates getting payoffs.

    The one thing that irks me a ton is how Qatar is supposedly going to build the stadiums and then at their cost they will reconstruct them in developing nations. I ask, why? Why put a stadium in the Sudan when it will sit empty and be used as military base of operations and/or a medical evac area when all hell breaks looses.
    For me, they are better off dismanteling and recycling those materials. Better yet, it would make more sense for Serie A clubs to purchase some of those stadiums.

    The other issue that Qatar will face is accomodations. I’m sure plenty of hotels will be built, but as you mentioned, it isn’t exactly a “party” nation/city. Where will the fans go to celebrate and watch matches. Not everyone will be at a stadium every day. Those said hotel rooms will become party central. I could see more than one horrible incident occuring, not due to too much partying but to overreaction to the parties.

  2. Erik says:

    I do think this WC will be one laregly ignored by fans as far as attending the games – especially women. We know how women are treated in that part of the World and while laws might be altered the thoughts of people who live there won’t! While laws might allow women to “commit the sin” of showing their legs and wearing shorts and a halter top – the people there will make sure that woman experiences holy hell for doing it. I find it hard to believe women will be attending or allowing their guy to go, either.

    I am hoping this is a massive failure so the corruption that is FIFA will be shown and exposed for all to see – not that we doubt it now.

    You couldn’t pay me to attend this WC

  3. An appreciation of Frank Lampard by me for Fox

  4. Ed Gomes says:

    Bobby, I really liked the piece on Lamps. He’s exactly the type of player that will become that more appreciated as time passes. His prowess will be fully appreciated when he’s gone. Keep in mind that I’ve been one of those fans that have pointed to the penalty goals.
    I still remember when Drogba needed a goal for the scoring title yet Lamps didn’t let him take the penalty. It was the last match, and luckily Drogba scored later on.
    That being said, I understand the player turnover at Chelsea. I’m a big fan of having experienced older players to provide leadership at critical times. But the problem at Chelsea is that there’s several older players that fancy themselves as that player. Hence everyone goes.

    I think that AVB is a good manager that can be very good. The problem is that I’m not so sure he can build a team or coach up a team. Maybe that makes him a poor manager, but some guys (I think he’s one) can manage big players/clubs. Not so sure he’s one for rebuilding.

    Why is it that Brits find it necessary to play for he Int’l squad. I get the great honor, but most players retire from Int’l play in order to extend their club careers. Brits tend to do the opposite. Is it just National pride and the pressures to do so?

  5. John Bladen says:

    Good work, Shona.

    The Qatar/Russia selections seemed to provoke more than the usual level of offense from the nations who believe football will always belong solely to them. Yes, these tournaments were purchased… but as Ed notes, so has every other tournament staged since the first one (when the price was much lower, of course…)

    “Giving” the stadia to poorer nations (if, indeed it will be a gift) provided for FIFA some social cover (growing the game in poor nations by selling it to the highest bidder? Sign me up! Is that brown envelope for me?). It is no guarantee that the stadia won’t still be white elephants after the WC (witness South Africa’s WC stadia 18 months on), but it looks oh so good on paper.

    As to the social restrictions in Qatar, my guess would be that all hotels and attractions open to ‘foreigners’ will be a short distance from the stadia themselves, and that these districts will constitute the “free” zones for fan behaviour agreed w FIFA. I don’t know that ordinary western behaviour (the Brazilians & English among them, as you’ve noted) will be tolerated anywhere outside the designated area… but time will tell.

    In general, I would say we as fans should be more offended by the treatment of foreign workers inside Qatar/Dubai/UAE than we are by restrictions placed on visitors who voluntarily travel there. But let’s face it, that’s never going to be the lead story is it?

  6. Ed – When you use the word “Brits” you are covering four separate international sides within that category – don’t know if that is intentional or you are pointing at England.

    Scholes and Shearer are two prominent players who quit international football so it is not unheard of.

  7. Ed Gomes says:

    I did mean England, although I feel that the pressure is the same throughout the continent, no?
    Maybe I’m just fed up with the whole Becks, wanting/needing to be on the squad, thing. It used to be that your club form would dictate your value to the Int’l squad. I know that demands have been put on him, but it’s like he would love to just play Int’l ball and skip club football altogether.
    I don’t see Lamps anywhere else in the EPL than Chelsea. A move abroad would be in order, but would he really be the type to go to Russia, Asia, or even America to cash in. If he wants to continue to play, that’s more likely than a smaller EPL club, no?

  8. John Bladen says:

    Ed, if you are talking about the Beckham ego trip (the desire to be the most capped English player ever, even if he has to suit up to play the Faroe Islands only for the last 30 caps…), it is curious.

    But that is not indicative of English internationals in general. For players like Ferdinand, I put their “lengthy” international careers down more to the total lack of international quality players coming up behind them than their own desires. I’m pretty sure a significant number of the squad that went to South Africa in 2010 knew they risked being exposed for the slow, non-world class players that they are… but short of declining an invitation to represent their country (an embarrassment for their delicate egos), perhaps they felt they had no option?

    In most other countries (an awful generalization, but…), there is a significant pool of younger, stronger, but perhaps not wiser talent pushing the older internationals out. Hence, they retire internationally before they are dropped.

    In England, that doesn’t seem to be happening. Whether it’s because the talent cupboard is bare or the present squad (and their agents) are mobilizing a PR brigade to keep the older guys from being dropped is up for debate. All I can say is that we know the “present” group aren’t anywhere near good enough to compete at the international level. The golden generation is almost entirely bereft of actual “gold”. Maybe the youngsters (wherever they are) would do worse, but we know these guys can’t get there.

    Germany did pretty well with a very young squad last time out, no?

  9. Soccerlogical says:

    re: Beckham

    The “footballer” just did the most homoerotic underwear commercial ever for Super Bowl Sunday. Surely MLS will benefit from this type of “exposure”!

  10. SL – banana time is it?

  11. Soccerlogical says:

    Bobby – Careful now… Roberto Carlos or Etoo may get offemded!

  12. Ed Gomes says:

    JB, I agree that sometimes Int’l managers stick with the older established players too long. I’ve had many a screaming match with Portuguese in regards to their Seleccao. It’s crazy how some players that weren’t even getting regular playing time were chosen instead of some talent youngsters. I am of the belief in providing them with the experience even if they sit on the bench. It’s good to see and feel the pressures involved.

    As for England, I would have figured that Capello would have cared less about stature and would have gone with talent. Yes that young talent might be unproven on International stage, but they should have gotten looks.
    If anything else, this season has seen the demise of some very important defenses, especially up the middle.

    Unfortunately I think that countries FA’s are more involved in the selection process than we know. Marketing, perception, money all come into play.

    As for Becks, he’s a brand more than footballer. He has to cash in now, because there will nothing within the sport once he’s done. Unlike Figo, for example, that could be a figure head

  13. Ed Gomes says:

    Sorry I cut myself off.

    Figo is able to push a clubs agenda being a figure head, while Becks only pushes Becks. Hence the MLS probably hiring him to be its figure head. Lol.

  14. Rob says:

    Bobby-Gotta disagree on Lampard. I think he will be replaced if they can find a replacement for Didier Drogba and Michael Essien. Those two players made life much, much easier for Lampard which is why the criticisms about deflected goals, penalties and his performances against the bigger sides come into play.

    Without those two players, Lampard is an above average to good midfielder. With them, he looks great to one of the best.

    What I would say is, switch Lampard and Gerrard and you would’ve seen Gerrard being compared to Zidane and other greats(which is probably why Mourinho wanted to spend 30m quid on him even though he already had Lampard…).

  15. John Bladen says:

    Ed, that’s a bigger question re: Capello.

    I was expecting that an “outside” manager with some cachet would bring in significant change. From the day he signed on, it’s been “as you were, men”.

    So… has Capello hit the same political and marketing limitations that previous managers did? Or is the group of present aging QF at best level stars simply the best England has?

    I’m not sure which answer is more frightening…

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