One thing is for sure: the new stadiums will glitter and sparkle, and the Doha skyline will shine in bright colours. FIFA gets its spectacle, Qatar the attention it longs for on the big world stage. The host team can now even play the opening game a day earlier, on November 20th.
Qatar vs. Ecuador, prime time – millions worldwide will tune in. After all, it’s the World Cup, “the greatest show on earth”. FIFA has changed the game plan for Qatar – just three and a half months before the start of the tournament. A good time to look out for the euphoria.
Have you spotted fans looking forward to the event? Will children storm the kiosks and stick their booklets full of paper when the World Cup Panini scrapbook comes out in September? I have my doubts.
At least that’s how I remember the World Championships as a little boy, but this tournament doesn’t want any tingling, no anticipation.
Skepticism and criticism prevail
Sure, we in the western world have our very own, sometimes football-romantic, perspective. Public viewing at the Christmas market is not one of them for many fans in Europe. The tiresome Eurocentric discussion about the “Winter World Cup” misses the heart of the problem.
Because that is also part of the truth: In other regions, the World Cup is seen more positively – after all, it will take place in 2022 for the first time ever in the Arab world, in a Muslim country. In Arab countries such as Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt, where football has a long tradition and enthusiastic supporters, a World Cup would probably not be financially viable. The Gulf region as a host is therefore only logical.
Nevertheless, the premiere continues to be overshadowed by skepticism. Not only because of the corruption in the awarding of the World Cup, because of Qatar’s sports washing strategy and the situation of migrant workers, which remains precarious despite reforms, how Amnesty International reports. But also because of shortcomings in the World Cup organization, which are becoming more and more visible.
Too few hotels for too many fans
Many fans with tickets are still not sure where to stay. According to the World Cup organizing committee, there will be 100,000 rooms, including hotels, creative options such as tent camps and cruise ships. But especially in the group phase, when all 32 teams bring their fans, three times as many visitors are expected. There is already talk of an “airlift”. Fans are to fly in to Doha from surrounding Gulf states for the games in the morning and out again in the evening. With 160 scheduled shuttle flights a day, that’s 3,520 flights more than already.
Sustainable, climate-neutral, a short distance World Cup? what remains of all this promise? The issue of “greenwashing” will continue to accompany us, also in view of the energy crisis in Europe triggered by the war in Ukraine. Fun fact: The energy consumption in a fully air-conditioned football stadium is about as high per game as in a small town (5,000 – 10,000 inhabitants).
What about compensation payments for the families of guest workers? What about the fears of the LGBTQ community? In an interview with DW, Human Rights Watch recently criticized that FIFA should have called for much more reforms in the country. Homosexuality is forbidden in Qatar.
A boycott is off the table
All these critical voices will slowly fall silent in the torrent of sporting reporting and at the latest when FIFA beams its brilliant pictures around the world. In the meantime, hardly anyone is enthusiastic about a boycott. Although there are among fans in Europe isolated initiatives. But there is agreement among the officials of the national teams: go there, play the tournament to the end and keep in touch at the same time. European associations have announced that they will participate in protest actions for human rights in Qatar to want to vote. Will that work when the ball is just rolling, in the middle of the glittering spectacle? Even if there is no anticipation – it is worth taking a close look at this World Cup.