Controversies aside, Qatar lives up to expectations

As in previous World Cup tournaments, Qatar has had its fair share of criticisms.

A desert country that is typically arid and dry, the weather towards the end of the tournament has cooled down immensely, almost as much as the censures it had been receiving the past month.

I must admit, I arrived in Doha with minimal expectations, and I frequently reminded myself that I am here just to watch the games, and nothing more. Despite having been here many years ago, it was too brief a visit for me to have any idea of what Qatar was all about.

A few days ago, weary from a rather long journey as a result of not taking a direct flight, I finally arrived in Doha, home to almost 2.4 million people, a city surrounded by desert terrains, boasting a lifestyle of extravagance and opulence.

The moment I stepped at the Doha International Airport, I was welcomed by airport staff of many different nationalities. The arrival was smooth and everyone was helpful, which is not surprising, as it is the FIFA World Cup, and host countries are expected to be welcoming. Qatar has done great so far.

The Hayya digital application, which is required to be downloaded by ticket holders, proved to be a success. It is the entry permit into Qatar and stadium access, in addition to the match tickets.

It also made many things, like identification, transportation, and basic information about the World Cup, less of a hassle. Access to venues, eateries and free public transportation are given to Hayya app holders.

Maybe some groups had hoped for Qatar 2022 to be a flop, but from what I have seen and heard, it has been a huge success, alcoholic beverages or not, and fans seem to be unperturbed.

The country boasts state-of-the-art infrastructure, with brand new public transportation and easily-accessible stadiums.

Most of the things prepared by the country for the World Cup showed that they had the comfort and convenience of football fans at the top of their list of priorities.

A few questions came to mind though, after witnessing such mega projects, which seemed to have been built just for the World Cup. News about the mistreatment of foreign workers have been reported widely in the past few months, even before the start of the World Cup Qatar campaign.

Qatar’s population is about 2.9 million, but only slightly more than 300,000 are Qatari citizens, while the rest are foreign workers.

The Guardian reported last year that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar in the past 10 years, ever since it started preparations for the World Cup.

The report cited an unprecedented building programme that included the construction of seven new stadiums, roads, and a new city, to name a few, which had caused the deaths of these workers.

Qatari authorities didn’t dispute the number of deaths, but instead, explained that the deaths were proportional to the size of the migrant workforce, and that work-related deaths in construction were less than 10 per cent of the fatalities within the group.

This is not the only controversy that has plagued the Qatar World Cup. Country leaders and FIFA officials have allegedly been involved in corrupt practices in the run-up to the country being chosen as host.

Just last week, Greek Socialist Member of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, was one of four suspects arrested in connection with a major police investigation into cash-for-influence involving Qatar’s government. The European Parliament has since removed Kaili from her role as vice-president.

Dubbed ‘Qatargate’, this recent development casts further doubt on the country’s legitimacy as the World Cup host this year, and demonstrates the extent with which they were willing to go to, to secure this honour.

Corruption, big or small, has been the bane of our existence, and while many have been tried and punished, there are still those who got away.

More often than not, those who called out corruption are sometimes the ones who change their minds, when it benefits them. We hear phrases like ‘for the greater good’ being bandied about lately. But there is also the phrase ‘the end doesn’t justify the means’.

In this case, Qatar is not the first, and certainly will not be the last, to be accused of corruption. The question is, how acceptable will it be by the majority, and will the popular opinion of the loudest deem it a ‘forgivable’ act?

As we all know, in the end, it is not about corruption. It is about who is involved and the people you know. With any luck, your wrongdoings may just be forgiven.

Come Dec 18, there will be a new World Cup champion.

Football fans will rejoice. Here’s to hoping that the 2026 World Cup will not be burdened with such controversies. With the United States of America being the arbiters of all that is just and fair, I guess we can expect a blemish-free tournament after all.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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