Qatar delivers great World Cup, unites people

Lionel Messi

Argentina's forward #10 Lionel Messi lifts the World Cup trophy during the Qatar 2022 World Cup trophy ceremony after the football final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on December 18, 2022. Argentina won in the penalty shoot-out.
 

Photo credit: Franck Fife | AFP

What you need to know:

  • All through the one-month show dozens of world leaders – presidents, prime ministers, monarchs, held an audience with the Qatari leader His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, no doubt enhancing the soft power of the Gulf nation.
  • Qatar delivered a great World Cup where all sets of fans mingled constantly in public spheres with no major incidents of crowd trouble, and in the spirit the host country wanted – football bringing people together.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino hailed the 2022 Qatar World Cup as the “best ever”.

The first World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world certainly left many endearing memories.

The attendance was impressive with the group stage for instance recording an average of 51,000 spectators per game.

The Qatari government had repeatedly said that everyone was welcome to attend the World Cup despite the numerous civil liberties restrictions in the country.

Hundreds of thousands showed up. Sample this. The population of Qatar is estimated to be 2.9 million, composed of 313,000 Qataris and 2.6 million migrant workers.

Compare that to the turnout at the Fifa Fan Festival at Al Bidda Park in Doha.

Over two million local and foreign fans visited the fan zone to enjoy the live broadcast of games and the vibrant entertainment on offer.

The Fifa Fan Festival, in downtown Doha, showed all the 64 games of the World Cup on an iconic 1,800 square metre screen and provided free entertainment with famous names in the world music industry including Diplo, Maluma, Kizz Daniel, Nora Fatehi, Trinidad Cardona and Calvin Harris performing.

The uniqueness of this first World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world was the close proximity of the stadiums.

They were all within an hour’s drive from each other making it possible for fans to attend two matches on the same day.

One Qatari provision that will make this World Cup special was the free transport for fans to and from the stadiums.

As long as an international fan had the Hayya card, which acted as a visa for World Cup visitors, they were entitled to unrestricted free rides in public buses and trains in Qatar.

On the pitch, the quality and competitiveness of the games was impressive.

For only the second time in the history of the competition Africa had two teams (Morocco and Senegal) advancing to the round of 16 while the Asian Football Confederation had three nations (Japan, South Korea and Australia), a first in its history.

Morocco, the first African team to make it out of the group stages of a World Cup way back in 1986, wrote another chapter in their history, by becoming the first nation from the continent to reach the semi-final.

They eventually finished fourth after losing 2-1 to Croatia in the third place play-off.

The unpredictability of the World Cup once again played out. The number one ranked team in the world and hot favourites Brazil fell at the quarterfinal stage while fancied Belgium, ranked second in the world could not even get out of its group.

Saudi Arabia beat eventual winners Argentina in one of the biggest upsets in world football, while the former powerful German machine could only sputter and choke at the group stage.

Was the final between Argentina and France the best ever? It was a gripping encounter that ended 2-2 after 90 minutes, 3-3 after 120 minutes, before the calm Argentines prevailed 4-2 on penalties, led by one of the greatest players in the history of the game: Lionel Messi.

Some say it was Messi’s destiny to hoist high the World Cup trophy, but Argentina had a set of wonderful players and in the end, were the best team in Qatar.

However, one will be left questioning why the tiny Middle East country bid to host the World Cup.

From the time Qatar were confirmed hosts in 2010 they pulled out all stops to ensure that everything and anything needed for the tournament was provided.

The Qataris built seven brand new stadiums – Al Bayt, Al Thumama, Stadium 974, Ahmed Bin Ali, Lusail, Education City, Al Janoub and refurbished Khalifa International.

But why build such magnificent stadiums only to downgrade them and even have one pulled down entirely as will happen to Stadium 948, a venue built from shipping containers.

The 40,000-seat Al Janoub Stadium will be reduced to 20,000 and turned into a home for sports and entertainment.

The grandest venue of them all, the gigantic Lusail Stadium, capable of holding 88,000 spectators, will be transformed into a community space with schools, shops, cafes, sporting facilities and health clinics under the original roof of the stadium.

In all, the rich Gulf state spent over Sh13 trillion to prepare for the 2022 World Cup including building a metro, a new city, new roads and expanding the airport.

All through the one-month show dozens of world leaders – presidents, prime ministers, monarchs, held an audience with the Qatari leader His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, no doubt enhancing the soft power of the Gulf nation.

Qatar delivered a great World Cup where all sets of fans mingled constantly in public spheres with no major incidents of crowd trouble, and in the spirit the host country wanted – football bringing people together.

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