Qatar is a small wealthy nation located in the Arabian Gulf/Middle East.
It shares a land border with Saudi Arabia and is very close (across the Persian Gulf) to UAE & Bahrain. It is approx 11,500 Sq Km in area – about the combined size of counties Tipperary & Cork back home. Of a total population of some 2M, less the 300,000 are native Qataris. The capital city is Doha.
Qatar is ruled by the Al Thani family. Has been for over 150 years. It has not suffered any of the turmoil experienced in other Middle Eastern countries in recent years probably because it has the highest per capita income in the world – rich people do not throw stones or petrol bombs. The Ruler up to 1995 did not spread much of the oil wealth amongst the population, preferring to stuff most of it in his own pocket, and was overthrown by his son as a result.
That same son, Hamed, handed over power to his son Tamim mid last year. Such a succession in the Arab world is rare. Normally rulers out these parts die or old age or get killed before a new ruler is appointed. Both Hamed, & Tamim since last year, have done a reasonably good job with splashing the cash on the local population and in building up the capital city Doha and related infrastructure. Oil & gas wealth is enormous so they have deep pockets.
In the past Qatar had land/border disputes with its neighbours but these were sorted out some ten to fifteen years back. Recently however, it has had political trouble with its neighbours again. This time primarily due to Qatar’s support against the interests of its neighbours in one guise or another, in other regional locations.
A number of the neighbours closed their embassies in Doha as a result and that situation remains unchanged. Qatar’s support for a number of the regional revolutions, in particular through its Al Jazeera TV stations, upset many of the other local rulers who expressed their displeasure to the Al Thanis to no avail. Hence the embassy closures and cooling to icey temps of relations between all concerned.
The decision to award the 2022 football World Cup to Qatar raised many eyebrows, with numerous accusations of foul play. There is some evidence of under-the-table payments to grease the wheels of the decision makers and maybe even the guys who had the votes at FIFA. Probably all World Cups involve same to a greater or lesser degree it must be said. The issue of its tiny population and fact that it has Summer temps approaching 50C were raised as serious reasons why the bid should have been rejected.
MB stated at the time of the award that he was pleased that a World Cup was coming to the Middle East with its football crazy total population of over 350M and that is still MB’s view. The Brits, who made one of the rejected bids for same tournament, are still digging to unearth some ‘killer’ piece of skullduggery that would result in a FIFA cancellation of the Qatar win. The Sunday Times newspaper has recently run some stories on the subject.
Presently the antis do not have sufficiently strong evidence to kill the Qatari bid, but if they unearth hard evidence involving payments to key players then it is possible that a new vote might take place. In such circumstances it is difficult to see how Qatar would succeed. There is also much talk since the award of playing the Qatar matches in January when the temps would be more conducive to playing football. Michel Platini, amongst others in FIFA, is in favour of such a proposal. MB thinks that it is utter madness to do anything else. The stadiums will be modular demountable structures that they will donate to poorer countries after the competition so no ‘white elephants’ as has happened in the past and about which many in Brazil have been protesting about for some time.
In relation to the hot temps the Qataris have committed to cooled stadiums and cooled pitches so are happy to run with a Summer tournament. But in MB’s view the World Cup is about more than the games which only last 90 mins each. Fans will be in Qatar for up to 4 full weeks. The losing bidders have already pointed out that this point should have been more fully considered by FIFA when it made its decision, as it opens up possible legal claims by various football leagues around the world if played in the Spring, if not also by the losing bidders themselves.
MB is in Doha for a few days and decided to write something on Qatar while waiting for his plane to depart Abu Dhabi airport.
A few shots since arrival – some traffic ‘light trail’ shots and MB’s hotel: