It’s touted as the best and biggest FIFA World Cup of all time. Five billion viewers are expected to hook on to the opening ceremony, and tonnes of data, paper, and media space will add to the sponsors’ delight. Players are offered amenities that will put uber-luxury business lounges in the shadows. Under the shiny veneer, Qatar has been combating a huge, invisible war since 2010, when FIFA awarded Qatar the 2022 World Cup.
Yesterday, barely 24 hours before the inauguration of the biggest sporting carnival in the world, the FIFA World Cup, the current FIFA President Gianni Infantino strongly defended Qatar and FIFA. In front of 400 journalists, Infantino said, “I think for what we Europeans have been doing for 3000 years around the world, we should be apologising for the next 3000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.”
Ground Reality Stadium Yes, Fans Let Down!
The sporting world’s shock in 2010 is now a source of global pride for football. From a single stadium, Qatar boasts eight world-class football stadiums. The sprawling stadium is the first air-conditioned sporting stadium for climate control in the sweltering heat of 37–40 degrees. Seats with barcode scanning, surveillance, and a multilingual help desk are convenient. However, hiring fake fans for team celebrations is their Achilles’ heel. A group of 400 odd so Pakistani and Bangladeshi fans are hired to masquerade as fans of descending countries at the airport. Later, the media revealed that for 12 USD daily wages and three meals, migrant workers are engaged to welcome players as enthusiastic original fans. Real fans pay to attend such prestigious meetups.
Food costs are exorbitant. A single frugal beverage will put Tel Aviv, the most expensive city in the world, into shame. When 12 lakh sports fans attend the show, a single full meal in Doha will cost $30 USD, ensuring that fans will watch and fly back instead of exploring Qatar, resulting in a significant revenue loss. Hotel stays are overpriced and completely sold out; hence, three cruise ships are parked on the harbor, offering silver service to the upper echelons visiting Qatar.
Football and beer are popular pastimes in Europe and South America. Budweiser, the famous American beer giant that has partnered with FIFA for the last 30 years, has been livid at FIFA officials in the last 24 hours. FIFA called off drinks during matches (two hours before and one hour after). Amidst fans’ foul-mouthed stance and an agitated sponsor, Infantino put up a brave face in a press conference.
Halo around Qatar missing
Powerful television voices like Piers Morgan believe the debate about the merits of Qatar hosting it should have been had more meaningfully 12 years ago. In a podcast interview with The News Agents, Piers said, “Every country that gets offered a World Cup, whether it was Russia and Qatar last time, or Brazil, England, or America, they should all be put through a forensic examination of their suitability to host it. The problem for Qatar at the time, 12 years ago, was that it lacked infrastructure, which caused a slew of issues for migrant workers. The argument about whether they should have been awarded it is completely valid”. Interestingly, Qatar’s bitter critics are from the USA, Japan, Australia, and South Korea, the same countries that bid for the 2022 WC.
But the fact remains that the inspection committees’ report on awarding the FIFA World Cup to Qatar ignored the lack of basic facilities then. The 22 members who voted to grant Qatar rights have a questionable track record of integrity and professional conduct. From the same lot, 16 have either been suspended, charged, or jailed since then.
Interestingly, around 90% of Qatar’s 2.9 million population is made up of migrant workers. In Qatar, the system for recruiting migrant labourers and managing (controlling) them is known as Kafala (now defunct). Kafala is essentially a sponsorship program, which means the employer is solely responsible for that worker’s visa and well-being.
The positive aspect of this World Cup is that it has focused global media attention on the draconian Kafala sponsorship system and the Gulf States’ migrant workforce culture.
Indian sentiments Robust
Despite the surround sound, the Indian fans (including the diaspora) are all set with the purchase of a record number of second and third viewing devices. According to an estimate, India is the seventh largest ticket buyer in the world for this FIFA World Cup edition. Around 30,000 corporates from 100-odd countries are booked for Qatar. Officially, county representation is led by Indian Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar, who is on a two-day official visit. Post-ceremony, he will meet the Indian diaspora.
BTS, Bollywood actress and dancer Nora Fatehi, American musical group Black Eyed Peas, Colombian singer J Balvin, Nigerian singer and songwriter Patrick Nnaemeka Okorie, and American rapper Lil Baby will perform at the FIFA World Cup 2022 opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 will be held at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. The northeastern coastal city of Al Khor is located 40 kilometres north of Doha. Indian viewers can view it on the JIO Cinema App and Sports 18. The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup will start at 7:30 p.m.