The most exotic World Cup in history was underway… It was a moment that seems to keep on beating. There, in Zurich, just after Joseph Blatter read the five letters of astonishment -Qatar-, the representative of this country that will organize the 2022 World Cup, the then emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said: “I thank you for believing in us. We are very proud. We will be able to organize a great World Cup.”
The first spark had been lit in 2010, when FIFA decided that twelve years later a World Cup would be played in the Middle East. But now there are only 200 days left for the 22nd World Cup in history. And, despite playing the entire World Cup for the first time in the 132 square kilometers that enclose Doha, the place is surprising and never ceases to amaze.
A good example was seen this Thursday, when the secretary general of the Organizing Committee, Hassan Al Thawadi, invited fans to visit the most emblematic places of the World Cup venue. Which are? From today until May 10, tourists will be able to tour Aspire Park, Lusail Marina, Souq Waqif and Msheireb Downtown Doha with a special prize. Over there, may be photographed with the sacred chalice of football: the precious and golden FIFA Cup that escaped from the hands of Messi in Brazil 2014.
“It is going to be incredible, a historic moment in the history of Qatar and our region. For decades, organizing the World Cup was a distant dream, but now it is a reality and only 200 days to go. We are ready to host an outstanding edition, which will leave an important legacy for our country, the Middle East and the rest of the world”, said Al Thawadi aware of the countdown.
A different world
Qatar is so young that it seems unbelievable that it already organizes a World Cup for seniors (in 1995 he organized the Sub 20, won by Argentina). After the British decision to leave the Persian Gulf in 1971, he joined the Federation of Arab Emirates of the Persian Gulf (born in 1968). Having gained its independence (in 1971), Qatar withdrew from the Federation, signed a friendship treaty with the British and joined the Arab League and the UN.
Since then, under the protection of the millions generated by the oil that flows from its soilsthe country did not stop growing: in its economy, in its infrastructure, in its population (in 1986, for example, there were just over 350,000 people), in its ability to show itself to the world from its short peninsula.
Beyond his appearances in the world press, especially through the large contracts of high-ranking footballers in full retirement (such as Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Batistuta, Marcel Desailly, the De Boer brothers, Fernando Hierro, Romario, Claudio Caniggia, Juninho Pernambucano, Raúl González, Xavi Hernández, Samuel Eto’o, Wesley Sneijder, among others), huge constructions or sports wonders from the nationalization of professionalsLittle is known about this territory.
Doha is ready to receive the World Cup. (KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)
Almost all Qataris are Muslim. In addition to the native Arabs, there are many foreigners who work in the country’s oil industry. Arabic is the official language, but English is also spoken by almost the entire population. Curious detail: it is estimated that there are more than 10,000 Spanish speakers. Of the 2,641,669 of the inhabitants (according to the 2017 census) of this country that has the highest per capita income in Asia and the sixth in the world, just over 20% was born under its sky.
It also happens that those born in Qatar have a benefit that allows them to live in leisure: the State, in exchange for nothing, pays them a minimum of 5,800 dollars as a subsidy. And they have multiple advantages for business development compared to those arriving from other countries.
Doha is also offered to tourism. (KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)
Soccer is the favorite window to show yourself to the world, it seems. It serves a very visible case: the PSG. In this soccer of millions and millionaires in the elite, there is a character that appears as one of the new faces of soccer of this time: Nasser Ghanim Al-Khelaifi. Born in Doha just over four decades ago, he is the first foreigner to hold the position of highest authority of the Parisian club.
Doha, ahead of the World Cup. They say that beyond the small spaces it will offer hospitality. (KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)
There are several aspects that distinguish this World Cup from others. One of them is the change of date, leaving the traditional June-July to take place between November 21 and December 18. It is that, the heat in the middle of the year in Qatar burns even the soul. So, FIFA decided for the first time in history to run the calendar. What time will it be played? The matches will be played between 7 and 16 hours in Argentina. The final will be played at our midday.
Eight stadiums were built and 6.5 billion dollars were invested both for match venues and training centers.
Far from the petrodollars, the sports spirit (Olympic, if you will) will be clearly seen in the bunkers of the teams that in many cases will be university campuses. For example, The Argentine National Team will stay at the University of Qatar. And he will share the place with Spain, although those led by Luis Enrique will occupy another wing and will not cross paths with those led by Lionel Scaloni.
Qatar University welcomed the Argentine National Team.
There are already 41 base camps for the 32 selections. Thirty-two, a number that says goodbye because this will be the last World Cup with that number of participants. From now on, the circus gets bigger and there will be 48 nations that will participate in the maximum event of world sport.
One hundred thirty-two square kilometers to pure football
Doha is a short territory: 132 square kilometers. A good example is that from the Argentine bunker to the Lusail Stadium, where the National Team will play two games, there are only 22 kilometers.
Perhaps that is the salient point of Qatar 2022: there will be no more than 75 kilometers between one venue and another: from Al Bayt stadium to Al Janoub. The shortest will be five kilometers: from Education City to Ahmad Bin Ali. Four games will be played per day.
The bad? One and a half million people are expected to travel to Qatar and many analysts have a hard time imagining what will happen to traffic during the competition. Argentine striker Sebastián Tagliabúe tells Clarín, from the neighboring United Arab Emirates: “Transit and lodgings are going to explode.” And the footballer continues with a solution: “The fans are going to have to stop here or in some other nearby territory.”
Doha has an extensive subway network of 77 kilometers with 37 stations. The cost of the ticket is 0.55 cents of a dollar.
There are at least five cities within fifty kilometers of Qatar (Ar Rayyān, Al Wukayr, Al Wakrah, Umm Şalāl Muḩammad and Umm Şalāl ‘Alī) that can serve as accommodation. And, in addition to the big hotels, cruises on the Qatari coast will be an option. The floating Scaloneta, the cruise ship that will moor in the port of Doha is an option. Clear luxury. The mega ship includes a package that includes entry to the three group stage matches: Tuesday, November 22 at 4:00 p.m.-, Mexico -Saturday, November 26 at 10:00 a.m.- and Poland -Wednesday, November 30 at 4:00 p.m. In addition, these days a show is being negotiated for one of the Argentine stars who these days is being linked to one of the cracks of the National Team.
The cruise ship, which will have five floors, swimming pools, a theater for 1,500 people, a dance club and various other amenities with a capacity for 2,840 passengers, will cost $12,000.
But there will also be family houses that will accommodate tourists. And there is even a plan to sign up as a volunteer and travel to the World Cup without paying. According to an official document from the organization of the event, there are 130,000 rooms available to accommodate fans traveling to Qatar.
The Inaugural stadium and the one of everyone’s dreams
EL Al Bait Stadium in the quarterfinals of the Arabian Cup between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Photo: REUTERS
Al Bayt, second with the largest capacity (60,000 spectators), will host the opening match, which will have the host team as one of the protagonists. It will be his first match in World Cup history. Meanwhile, the place of all wishes, the stage of the final will be the Lusail Stadium, with a capacity of 80,000 spectators. They say that both places They will offer luxury for every corner. It doesn’t seem like a surprise. Beyond the controversies.
The theater of dreams: the Qatar 2022 final will be played at the Lusail Stadium. Photo: REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski/File Photo