One year from World Cup, clock ticks ever louder for Qatar

Saturday, November 20th, 2021 01:08 |
A general view show the Lusail Stadium, the 80,000-capacity venue that will host the FIFA World Cup nal in December 2022, around 20 kilometres north of the Qatari capital Doha on November 17, 2021. AFP

After upending the football establishment by winning the right to host the World Cup, Qatar’s preparations are heading into overdrive with a year to go as they rush to welcome more than a million fans and prove their critics wrong.

The tiny Gulf state has a reputation for punching above its weight but challenges do not come much bigger than holding football’s showpiece event in a desert peninsula of 2.7 million without a strong sporting tradition.

Twelve months before the November 21, 2022 kick-off, the Qatari capital Doha, which is hosting almost the entire tournament, is dotted with roadworks and building sites that are causing chaos for its inhabitants.

With some Qatari infrastructure projects delayed by the pandemic, the clock is ticking more loudly than organisers might have liked, just as scrutiny of the preparations starts to rise.

However, most of the building blocks are in place, with six of the eight World Cup stadiums due to host the 16-team Arab Cup from November 30.

Qatar this week

“I’ve never seen a country in the world which has been so ready so much in advance… it will be like a toy store for fans when they come,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in Qatar this week.

Qatar rocked football in 2010 when they beat favourites the United States in the World Cup bid process, a victory that sparked accusations of vote-buying -- which were hotly denied -- and questions over the country’s suitability.

Since then, FIFA’s old guard has been toppled in a welter of corruption cases and Qatar has emerged as a major player in the sport, snapping up French giants Paris Saint-Germain and with the Qatar Foundation becoming Barcelona’s first shirt sponsor.

Meanwhile, Qatar has faced constant criticism of the working conditions of its hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers, including those who built the World Cup stadiums.

It has responded with labour reforms, although officials admit the situation is a “work in progress”.

“Since we won the World Cup (rights) we have received a lot of criticism. There is constructive criticism that we tried to take on board,” Fatma al-Nuaimi, head of communications at the Qatar organising committee, said last month.

“We also try not to let this criticism stop us.”

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