at the opening of “its” World Cup, Qatar is at the center of the game, except on the pitch

A torch in the night, which illuminates the desert and guides towards the bowels of a gigantic Bedouin tent. A sound and light show that enhances the country’s culture and fully integrates it into the world. And a disappointing level football match, completed in front of many deserted places. On Sunday 20 November, after twelve years of waiting and months of controversy, Qatar officially opened the World Cup it is organizing. Novice in the competition, the country logically lost against Ecuador (0-2).

Read also: World Cup 2022: Qatar beaten by Ecuador at the start of the competition

Precisely in Al-Khor, about fifty kilometers north of Doha, Qatar launched “its” World Cup with great fanfare. And multiplied the symbols, in this city of origin of Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, mother of the current emir and ambassador of luxury of the emirate on the international scene – she was alongside her husband during the World Cup awards in Qatar in 2010.

In a stadium inspired by a Bedouin tent – and literally called Al-Bayt, the home – the gas emirate underlined its desire for hospitality. “People will come here, to Qatar, from all over the world, regardless of their race, nationality, religion or orientation”said Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, wishing “Welcome the world to everyone’s Doha”. Crowning the soft power strategy of the tiny Gulf state’s ruling family, the launch of the World Cup had to live up to its ambitions.

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The Qatari narrative as it wants to be seen

And who better than Morgan Freeman to lend his body to this great operation of seduction? In 2010, the American actor was the voice of the US bid for the 2022 World Cup, which they lost to Qatar. He told Qatar on Sunday as the emirate wants us to see it. A country where globalized culture – embodied by the world star of K-Pop, Jung Kook, one of the leaders of the BTS group – is intertwined with traditional music. A country whose World Cup, however denigrated, is a continuation of the previous ones, with strong fan references (music and mascots). A country at the center of the game.

The grandstand mirrored the site now occupied by Qatar, until recently isolated, subject to blockade by its neighbours. Behind the emir, the presence of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Ben Salman, and the Egyptian presidents, Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, and Turkish presidents, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, illustrated Doha’s desire to make “its” World Cup the Arab-Muslim world event. A world too often on the margins of the great sporting masses, despite the millions of football fans who invade Doha.

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