The football (real football!) World Cup kicked off on 20 November last and the final was played on Qatar National Day Public Holiday, 18 December 2022.
Qatar came in for some ferocious criticism in the international media in the lead-up, mostly from Western Europe and from the UK in particular. From someone who has lived in Qatar for almost nine years, MB can say that the vast majority of the criticisms were inaccurate and grossly exaggerated. Much of the stuff MB read online might have had some relevance in 2010 when Qatar was awarded the tournament but since that date, the governing authorities here passed a host of legislative enactments that created a far safer and more protected environment for those workers, mainly from SE Asia, that worked on the many WC related projects. Other online articles were complete fabrications MB can say with certainty.
Much was also made of the laws here relating to the gay community. A gay lifestyle is strictly forbidden here, as it is in most Muslim countries and many others. That’s not to say that MB agrees with the local laws. He doesn’t. But he comes from a different culture and doesn’t think he has any God-given right to force his values on others who disagree with his. And maybe in time and over a few generations, attitudes and laws will change. The solution promised by Qatar was, essentially, that the authorities would turn a blind eye to whatever happened behind closed doors, but just respect the local laws and customs in public, and all would be welcome. And the authorities were good to their word.
A few days before the tournament started, the authorities announced that stadiums would be alcohol-free. Having attended six matches in total and with the benefit of hindsight, MB can say that it was a good decision. There was a great friendly and fun atmosphere at the games with many young kids in attendance with their moms and dads; with the moms and dads not having to worry about boorish drunken behaviour of fans. The focus was on the games and taking selfies and having great family fun and memories for the future.
From a football perspective, the tournament was a huge success with record goal-scoring and the best WC Final in the history of the game. Messi wearing his Arabic cloak, or bisht as it’s called in the local language, will live long in the memory. The bisht received much negative publicity from the usual quarters, but to be offered to wear it is a big honour in Gulf societies. So the bisht got a big thumbs up from MB.
One unique feature of the 2022 WC was that the entire tournament was played in a single city, unlike most past WC tournaments which were be hosted by multiple cities many hours flying time apart. So going out socially during the Qatar 2022 WC meant that you were sure to bump into fans from any or all 24 countries who participated in the initial group stages. Many from outside the Middle East learned that people here are not so different than people back home and it was great to see Arabs and non-Arabs mixing and taking football and generally chit-chatting about everything and anything at the nightly entertainment and eating venues. Qatar has actually extended the WC ‘visa on arrival’ programme until end 2023 for many nationalities. We are presently in the middle of the end-of-Ramadan Eid Public Holiday period over here and the hotels are full of tourists from outside, many returning no doubt to relive some WC memories.
Eight mega-stadiums were built for the tournament. One was built fully from shipping containers and will soon be fully dismantled, if it’s not already (MB must check!). Others were built with demountable top halves, so the 40, 000 capacity will reduce to 20,000 and local clubs will take those over. Others will remain as they were built for use for major sports and entertainment events. So, all in all, the goal of a sustainable tournament was generally achieved.
There was a feeling of pride amongst locals, natives and ex-pats alike, that the tournament went off so successfully, and some sadness that the daily and nightly fun had come to an end.
The flags of the participating nations and the Hublot countdown clock: