in Qatar, the pride of organizing the 2022 World Cup

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With hours before the start of the FIFA World Cup, held for the first time in the Arab world, Qataris waver between enthusiasm and unflinching pride in the face of criticism of the event. Report from the streets of Doha.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I was fifteen when I attended the awards ceremony. I remember the explosion of joy when it was announced. And now the World Cup is taking place in Qatar.” Qataris, remember the exact location she was in when her country officially became the host country of the competition in 2010.

The 27-year-old describes himself as an “absolute football fan”. Qatari shirt and cap on his shoulders, he sips a fruit juice on the terrace of the Waqif souk, the “standing market”, the secular center of the city.

Aïssa is not sulking at this World Cup in Qatar
Aïssa is not sulking at this World Cup in Qatar © Romain Houeix, France 24

Aïssa is happy on the eve of the World Cup. You have obtained tickets for Qatar’s three games, including the inaugural one which takes place on Sunday 20 November against Ecuador. You are optimistic about your country’s chances of leaving the strong group with the presence of Holland and Senegal. But you, realistically, you still see Argentina going to the final against a European team. “Why not against France”, she smiles fair play.

The atmosphere is based on foreign fans

For the moment, savor above all the pleasure of the atmosphere that rises in the souk, in the midst of the flags installed everywhere. Under the benevolent eye of security, some groups of foreign fans come to enliven the transfer market. Argentines sing loud and clear songs to which the Portuguese, Brazilians and Croatians respond. A little further on, a Saudi sewed his flag with that of Morocco, Tunisia and Qatar to celebrate the friendship between the four Arab nations qualifying for this first World Cup in the Middle East.

An Arab friendship flag in the Waqif market.
An Arab friendship flag in the Waqif market. © Romain Houeix, France 24

Qataris are more reserved. They observe the scenes with an amused air, mostly avoiding answering questions. Children don’t have that shyness. Stars in their eyes, they talk about their hopes for this World Cup.

“By organizing this World Cup, we are among the greats,” said 10-year-old Jalalah. “I want Qatar to win.”

“It’s a great result for Qatar and for the Gulf Arabs. I hope it’s the best World Cup ever,” added Ali, his twin brother, who also supports Neymar’s Brazil.

Ali and Jalalah, accompanied by their older brother.
Ali and Jalalah, accompanied by their older brother. © Romain Houeix, France 24

The criticisms that have rained down on Qatar since the attribution of the 22 remain only for adultsAnd The World Cup remains in the throat of many.

“In every country there are problems.”

Like Aïssa: “Many doubted our ability to organize such an event given our small size, but we took up the challenge. We have an outstanding infrastructure. I have no doubt it will be a great success for Qatar”, praises the young man who calls on Europeans to focus on their situation rather than judge their own country.

“It is true that there was a problem regarding the rights of foreign workers but that was before because today the situation has improved”, justifies the fervent supporter of Qatar. “In every country there are problems.”

Dressed in a thobe and izar – the traditional white shirt and trousers – and wearing the ghutra, 31-year-old Suhaim Althain says no more. While the company’s head of international relations is not a football fanatic like Aïssa, he intends to make the most of the competition. He bought tickets for eight matches including the inaugural Qatar-Ecuador. But what he expects most is Argentina-Mexico with the promise of seeing passionate fans in action.

“This World Cup is a success for the entire Arab world”

While enjoying his cold drink, he takes the time to reflect and weigh every word when it comes to responding to the criticism leveled against his country, amidst the catastrophic ecological impact of competition and respect for the rights of migrant workers. . You regret a certain misinformation and put the magnifying glass on the problems, to the detriment of a global vision of the event.

>> Also read: The World Cup in Qatar, a world of “excess”

“I think this World Cup will change the world view of Qatar and the entire region: a country that has a lot to offer, with a rich culture and a diversity of people who live there,” he, before shelling the examples of the past. “Germany stopped being associated with the Nazis after hosting the World Cup (in 1974 and 2006, nldr). South Africa is no longer seen as underdeveloped like the rest of the continent after the 2010 World Cup. All the fans came back enthusiastic from Russia in 2018…”

“In terms of developments, our country has changed rapidly in the last twelve years. Many infrastructures have been created to host the World Cup, not only stadiums but also transport, accommodation… All of this is part of a longer-term plan: the 2030 vision”, he recalls, referring to this plan launched in 2008 by the government to develop the country in a sustainable way by 2030. “The World Cup was a very strong accelerator.

“This World Cup is a success for the entire Arab world,” he concludes. “He’s here now [à Doha, nldr]. We should start focusing on matches.”

The World Cup in Qatar beyond football:

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