FIFA World Cup: Qatar beckons on the world
By Fred EDOREH
As Qataris trooped out on December 18 to celebrate their National Day, they also had their heart on another epochal event, the finals of the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup scheduled for same day.
The Qataris were not fazed that their team had ended in third place, not making it to the finals which saw two African teams slug it out into extra time until Algeria secured the upper with a 2-0 victory over Tunisia.
The event was more important than wherever the trophy went. It was a precursor, a test run for a bigger, more life changing expectation for the nation – the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup scheduled to kick off in November 2022.
It would be the first ever FIFA World Cup on Middle East and Arab soil, and the Qataris, nay, the Arab world, is waiting with bated breath.
Their offering is not just to showcase beautiful Qatar and the progress they have achieved in civilisation, they are aiming to bring the world together in a more inspiring, more transforming way, beyond imagination.
An enthusiastic Aye B. Kiven captured the mood this way on his Social Media post:
“We are coming together again. This time, in Al-Khor and in Al- Rayyan and in Al-Wakrah and in Doha and in Lusail.
“I have learned that a spirit of friendliness is waiting for people in Qatar. I have learned that cultural diversity is waiting for people in Qatar. I have learned that a good economy is waiting for people in Qatar. I have learned that many other beautiful things are waiting for people in Qatar. How did Qatar get to this level? Many countries going to Qatar need to leave Qatar with the answer.
“Africa is going to Qatar and Asia is going to Qatar and Europe is going to Qatar and North and Central and South America are going to Qatar and Oceania is going to Qatar for soccer and to also celebrate together the unique ways of each people – very beautiful spice for our coming together.
“At a time when the world dearly needs a spirit of togetherness, soccer offers us the opportunity to live it. At a time when poor relationship between nations is tearing the world apart, soccer offers us bridges.
At a time when there is so much hate in the world, soccer offers us the opportunity to live love. At a time when the world is being starved of peace, soccer offers us the opportunity to live peace.”
The success of the FIFA Arab Cup gives assurance of an even greater experience when the world arrives next year.
President of the Asian Football Confederation, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa underscored this in his evaluation of the tournament, saying Qatar’s staging of the Arab Cup has proved its capacity to stage the greatest-ever FIFA World Cup.
“The world has witnessed the warmth of Qatar’s hospitality and the impeccable organisational expertise and efficiency led by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Legacy & Delivery executed to perfection. More importantly, the FIFA Arab Cup confirmed what we in Asia have known all along, that Qatar is more than ready to stage the greatest-ever FIFA World Cup in the tournament’s proud history,” he declared.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino also shares in the promise of Qatar to the world:
“What I see here is a country that is preparing to welcome the whole world, and every fan, but also looking into where improvements are needed and taking real steps to do so in many different areas, particularly in relation to human rights and workers’ welfare.”
“We will enjoy being all together in one place. Fans will be treated to top-class football in eight state-of-the-art stadiums. We are looking forward to the opportunity to bring people from different backgrounds together.”
Securing the hosting right was not an easy ride for Qatar, especially pitched against such big nations like Britain, Australia and the joint bid of the Netherlands and Belgium.
Critics made much of the summer heat of the region which could go overboard but Qatar replied with the promise of not only achieving a cooling system that would keep temperature at the stadiums on fair balance but also with the agreement to shift the Mundial from June to November when the weather is friendlier.
Critics have also come up with issues of human and labour rights in the government. These may never go away, but the point remains that it is a World Cup and we must look beyond the politics of regional might to make our world go round, to enable peoples to experience and better understand and embrace the diversity of our world.
The Qatar World Cup has come to stay and the Arabs are beckoning on the world with the assurances of setting new benchmarks as His Excellency, Hassan Al-Thawadi, Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy enthused:
“We are thrilled to celebrate the one-year-to-go milestone. We are on track to deliver a tournament that will set new benchmarks for social, human, economic and environmental development, a tournament that will forever be remembered as innovative, sustainable and transformative when people came from all over the world to visit the Middle East and Arab world for the first time and have life-changing experiences.
“This is a unique and special moment for Qatar as the host country. After 11 years of hard work and lasting progress, we are well on the way towards delivering the first World Cup in our region, one that will leave a profound legacy for Qatar, the region and the entire world.”
The joy now and as at when the World Cup kicks off is not only for the Qataris, Arabs and Asians, but also for as many across the world who believed and stood up for a fair global relationship.
They recognised during the bid that of the whole 60 years history of the World Cup, South America had hosted thrice, North America had hosted thrice, Europe had hosted 10 times, Far Eastern Asia hosted once with the Korea-Japan 2002 joint host experiment while Africa had also hosted once when Nelson Mandela fought hard for South Africa 2010.
These believers, ambassadors of “one world” include former Barcelona, now Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta, Ronald de Boer who stepped up for Qatar even when his Dutch nation was in the bid, and German great, Lothar Matthaeus.
These are expected to take a bow when the world gathers at the Al Baqt Stadium for the opening ceremony or at the finals at the iconic Lusail Stadium, come 2022.