The global carnival known as the World Cup begins today in Qatar.
For all of 28 days, 32 national teams will compete in kicking a ball to and fro in a field as enthralled fans across the world temporarily forget the pains of recent times: Covid-19, economic recessions, war in Ukraine, high food and fuel prices, and climate uncertainties worldwide.
The World Cup is not just a tournament. It's a fiesta. Fans set aside political and other differences as they unite to cheer their teams.
Palestinian and Israeli fans are sharing charter flights from Tel Aviv to Qatar.
Football powerhouse Brazil has just emerged from a bitterly contested and divisive election. All that is now behind it as the country parades its yellow and green colours in Qatar aiming for a sixth Cup title. The trophy has traditionally rotated between Europe and South America.
A million fans from all over the world are expected to invade Qatar during the World Cup, completely swamping the place and raising security nightmares. (In a population of 2.8 million, only 11 per cent are native Qatari citizens while the rest are foreign workers, mainly from South Asia). The tiny emirate clearly has never experienced anything like this before.
South American samba
Qataris will marvel at the exotic beats of South American samba, African drums and European martial chants as they roar all over the country's magnificent stadiums.
They'll see shirtless foreign fans with their bodies painted in their national colours parading in the streets of the capital city Doha and screaming themselves hoarse for their teams.
World Cup mania is animalistic, primitive, intoxicating. Preparing for what undoubtedly will be an unprecedented culture shock, conservative Muslim Qatar has, exceptionally, allowed the sale of alcohol at designated points for foreign visitors.
Boozy fans wary of strict Qatari laws are not taking chances. They've booked themselves into three huge cruise ships docked offshore.
It's the first time the World Cup tournament is being hosted in the Middle East, and by an Arab country. There's been a lot of grumbling, especially from Europe, that it was a mistake to designate as host a country with no storied footballing tradition.
Sure, Qatar is no Brazil, or Germany, or England. Nobody seriously expects her extravagantly assembled but underdog team to make anything other than an early exit. Sometimes, though, magic happens when a host nation is emotionally united as one rooting for its compatriots on the field, something which can make an otherwise mediocre team do miracles.
And let's not forget Qatar is the reigning Asia Cup football champion. Yet the World Cup is in a totally different league. Asia, sadly, has never been in the first rank of footballing regions. The Asian countries that have previously graced the World Cup stage have been unimpressive, with the notable exception of Japan and South Korea.
Population giants China and India don't quite belong at this pinnacle of the game. Qatar, as hosts, qualified automatically for the tournament. For the little country, this is all a dream come true.
Qatar has been unsparing in preparing for this festival. From the time FIFA named her the 2022 tournament host 12 years ago (amid credible charges of bribery), she has spent about $220 billion to build seven stunning stadiums, a World Cup "mini-city", an airport, a brand new metro, and dozens of hotels to accomodate visiting fans.
It helps when you are one of the largest natural gas and oil producers globally and when you have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. To ensure the players and spectators cope with the baking temperatures in Qatar, the stadiums will be air-conditioned.
Sub-Saharan Africa will be represented by teams from Senegal, Cameroon and Ghana. It remains to be seen whether the continent's best player, Senegal's Sadio Mane, will be playing.
Ahead of the World Cup he got injured in the European leagues. It was considered a national calamity in Senegal. The country's officials vowed to do "everything" to ensure he'll be fit to play, including soliciting the services of "witchdoctors" if necessary.
The farthest African countries have gone in previous World Cup campaigns are the quarter-finals. Will they move higher this time, given the natural flair African players show for football?
Europe has provoked Qatari fury for trying to impose its cultural arrogance (or more accurately its decadence) on the World Cup hosts. The issue has been about the so-called LGBTQs – an acronym for lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders and queers.
European activists and assorted busybodies launched an orchestrated anti-Qatari campaign because she outlaws LGBTQs. Many European celebrities won't be going to Qatar to watch the World Cup due to this matter.
But why single out Qatar when it's not the only country that is homophobic? There are so many others in the world. Tucked behind the LGBTQ noise are complaints about Qatari (mis)treatment of its migrant workers.
Europeans, let Qatar and her culture be. Go cheer your teams then return to your continent and continue caring for your LGBTQs undisturbed.
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When Defence CS Aden Duale underwent parliamentary vetting on October 17, he displayed a good grasp of the issues sorrounding the ministry.
Except for one brief moment when he hinted that it may not be a bad idea to relax military recruitment rules. It would be a very bad idea. Those rules are codified in law. Military recruitment is done at the sub-county (constituency) level.
The numbers picked must be proportional to the population of a sub-county.
For instance, KDF is obligated to take in more recruits from, say, Mavoko in Machakos County than from Duale's former constituency because of the population differential.
Duale, don't try to tweak those rules. They are sacrosanct. Don't play with fire. The military will oppose such changes.
[email protected]; @GitauWarigi