Qatar 2022: Get Ready for an Amazing FIFA World Cup
The next football World Cup is coming to Qatar in 2022, and if we are to believe the media this is both a big surprise and a big mistake. When the results of the FIFA voting were announced back in 2010, the initial reaction was perhaps one of disbelief.
Such a Small Country, Such a Big Event
How could such a small country host such a big event? How could players cope with the Qatari heat? How could a country with no footballing heritage to speak of even be considered? How would a conservative Middle Eastern state handle foreign football fans? And how did Qatar manage to win enough votes to come out on top?
This final question has already been the subject of an internal FIFA investigation, which cleared the Qatari bid committee of any wrongdoing, but the other issues have given many commentators cause to suggest that the 2022 tournament is at this point simply a disaster-in-waiting. So should we be worried?
Will Qatar be Ready in Time?
Football fans with longer memories will know that similar fears are expressed before every World Cup. Remember Russia 2018? The stadiums won't be ready. The local fans or police will be too violent. The host cities are too far apart for fans to get to matches. The country doesn't welcome tourists. What about Brazil 2014? The locals will protest against the cost. Criminals make it too dangerous to visit. It's too far for fans to travel. Not enough hotels. South Africa 2010? Not a footballing nation. Too much crime and corruption. Too cold in the South African winter. Transport systems won't be ready. Germany 2006? OK, obvious exception to the rule; the Germans have everything under control… but maybe the hotels will be too expensive. Yet when each tournament draws to a close, it always turns out that everything was just fine.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino stated that Russia 2018 was the best World Cup ever – then went on to say that Qatar 2022 will be even better. He's right, and this is why.
The Beautiful Game
First of all, in the eyes of football fans, every World Cup is fantastic. Football fans love football – and the World Cup, without fail, provides a month of wall-to-wall football. In 2022, Qatar will give the world 28 days of football from 21st November to 18th December and it will be awesome.
For fans watching at home on TV, Qatar is the perfect location: three hours ahead of Europe, and three hours behind East Asia. It will be possible to watch most of the games and still get a good night's sleep. For fans who make the trip, they will be there in person sitting in the very seats that millions of TV viewers can only dream about. When you attend a World Cup match, your night out isn't just the highlight of your day – it's the highlight of the day for billions of people all over the planet. For 90 minutes you are figuratively at the centre of the world, and the story that plays out in front of your very eyes might be remembered for a lifetime. Little else compares.
Desert Heat Avoided
And look at those dates. November and December. The fearsome desert heat will be avoided by FIFA's decision to shift the tournament to the winter – during the football season, in fact. The European leagues will be forced to take a break to accommodate the World Cup, and they are distinctly unhappy, but it does mean that the world's best players will be going into Qatar 2022 fit and fresh, rather than at the end of a long and draining season. And the temperatures will be perfect – an average of 26°C during the day, dropping to 17°C at night. That's just idyllic, and European fans escaping the northern winter will love it just as much as the players.
Is Qatar too Small?
The argument that Qatar is too small makes little sense given the complaints that Russia and Brazil were too big. For the first time ever, it will be possible for fans to go to a different match every day, or go to more than one match on the same day.
One problem that World Cups have always faced is that if two 'unappealing' teams meet in a distant city - Panama v Tunisia in Nizhny Novgorod for example - the organizers must rely on locals to show up at the stadium because, with all due respect to those teams, there won't be 40,000 Panamanians and Tunisians making the journey. The locals might line up for tickets to watch the stars of Argentina or Italy, but lesser matches can see a lot of empty seats, and that's not good for the overall atmosphere.
A Unique Opportunity to be Different
Qatar 2022 has a unique opportunity to be different. Fans who have tickets to watch their own team on Tuesday and Friday, for example, won't be forced to travel between games, and will therefore be free to watch other games on the Wednesday and Thursday. You can't do that when you have a 2,000 km journey from one end of Russia to the other squeezed in between your team's matches, but in Qatar it will be easy to fit in much more football. The organising committee have already recognised this potential advantage and intend to sell ticket packages which encourage fans to watch more than one game on the same day.
What about Alcohol?
Another concern for both fans and Qataris is alcohol. Visiting fans will want to drink, and this might not go down well with the traditional Islamic culture.
However, the organising committee is well aware that a compromise must be reached. Nasser Al-Khater, the World Cup CEO, explained the situation perfectly, stating that "alcohol is not part of our culture, but hospitality is," before adding that Qatar intends to make sure not only that fans will have access to alcohol, but also that the prices will be brought down to make drinking more affordable. In normal times of course, alcoholic drinks are heavily taxed, and available only in restricted circumstances.
A Chance to Make a Mark
There is one final reason above all others why this particular World Cup will be a success, and that is the simple fact that Qatar clearly relishes the opportunity to make its mark on the global stage, showing off the best of the country and its Islamic and Arab culture. From bringing in cruise ships to make sure fans are accommodated, to promising visa-free access to visitors attending the tournament, the organisers will be working hard to present Qatar in the best possible light. And while there have been a number of controversial aspects to their role as hosts to date, it can be expected that those who attend the tournament itself will experience only the very best that the Middle East can offer.
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