World Cup in Qatar? No, No, No!

BY BIKYA MASR
Dec 08, 2010

FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to the tiny Arab emirate of Qatar is, bluntly put, bold, baffling and just plain wrong.

Yes, the bid was impressive and innovative, and goodness knows how Arabs must feel by being awarded the rights to the second-most important sporting event in the world.

But human rights issues aside – international governing bodies rarely notice these things anyway – there are simply far too many negatives about the Qatari announcement.

First and foremost, given what Wikileaks has revealed in those US embassy cables in the past week, isn’t rewarding Qatar the rights asking for trouble?

 

Former French national team captain Zinedine Zidane threw his support behind Qatar's World Cup 2022 bid.

 

Like many, I was sceptical about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But having now read the private thoughts and lobbying from Sunni Arab leaders to bomb Iran – Qatari PM Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani branded his Persian neighbors as “liars” – this is an open invite for the Iranian regime to cause mischief between now and 2022.

More dangerously, what’s to stop Iran actually bombing Qatar during the World Cup? According to US diplomats in the U.A.E., an Iranian ballistic missile would take just 46 seconds to fly across the Strait of Hormuz.

Does that mean Israel and the United States will now need to disarm Iran beforehand through war – with tacit approval and support from America’s Arab allies?

Those spineless fat cats at FIFA could even succumb to Arab pressure and ban Israel from playing.

Talking of Israel, what will actually happen if – in the unlikely event – they qualify for the World Cup? Sure, the Qatar 2022 bid team has already addressed the issue by saying that Israel would have no trouble participating, but in such a volatile region, that can be interpreted as a hollow promise, no matter how binding the agreement is. Those spineless fat cats at FIFA could even succumb to Arab pressure and ban Israel from playing.

Further, can the Israeli team’s safety be guaranteed or are we at risk from another Black September Munich massacre? Or what if they are drawn against another Arab nation, like Saudi Arabia? Would Arab teams then boycott the tournament?

In addition, would Arab television channels broadcast a blank screen every time the Israelis play, as they already do in other sporting tournaments such as tennis and athletics? What would FIFA make of that?!

Thirdly, for all the talks about playing matches in solar-powered, environmentally friendly and air-conditioned football stadiums, travelling supporters and officials would still need to get from one place to another before they reach the venues. Will these places also be air-conditioned?

When I went to Dubai a couple of years ago to visit the Burj al Arab, I remembered having to walk a fair few yards from the cool reception of the Burj back to the air-conditioned bus-stop a couple of hundred meters away. It wasn’t far, but the heat was intense – and that was in April.

Don’t tell me they’re building air-con travelators and underground tunnels for visiting fans?

How many of these small walks will be under cover in Qatar when the temperatures will be in the 40s? Don’t tell me they’re building air-con travelators and underground tunnels for visiting fans?

 

On a related point, if you plan on going to the tournament for two to three weeks – as many Europeans do no matter where the tournament is held – what is there to do in Qatar apart from sitting in bars, shopping malls, hotel rooms and the odd museum? It’s far too hot outdoors and one can’t just cross the border into Saudi Arabia for a few days. Let’s hope they build that bridge to Bahrain soonish …

More importantly, bearing in mind that many travelling supporters will be visiting from poorer continents, will there be enough cheap accommodation to house so many people in this rich Gulf state?

And how many people will actually go to the World Cup in Qatar?

 

Internationally-aired commercial from Qatar's World Cup 2022 bid. Can you see the football extravaganza happening here?

 

If previous sporting events in Doha are anything to go by, then we can expect many empty seats during the early stages in 2022. You only have to look at the TV pictures from last month’s WTA end-of-season women’s tennis championships to see how Qataris feel about their sport. If South Africa’s population of 45 million couldn’t fill out all its stadia this summer – what chance has Qatar?

Africa’s population of 45 million couldn’t fill out all its stadia this summer – what chance has Qatar?

This tiny emirate registers one-thirtieth of the South African population, and I bet you the organisers won’t even have enough school children to fill those empty seats! But at least most of its inhabitants will be able to afford those exorbitant ticket prices, which cannot be said for what happened this past summer.

In terms of football, what justice is there for a national side ranked as low as 113th in the world to just waltz into the last 32 of the world championships of football without even needing to qualify?

Currently sandwiched between the Central African Republic and Thailand in the FIFA World football ranking, Qatar will never make an impact on the sport.

It’s all very well they start dishing out passports and fat checks to Kenyan marathon runners to switch nationality prior to the Olympic Games. But a national football team isn’t something one could just assemble within 12 years – it takes time to nurture. Furthermore, money can’t buy false national pride.

Lastly, a side note to any World Cup is also the issue of prostitution, and the question here is how will they service all these international football fans during this five-week window – by busing in Saudi escorts or flying them in from the Philippines, and thus creating another branch in human trafficking?