Qatar continues to fight critics over possibly best World Cup ever

So, the Qatar World Cup came and went. A month of sheer drama with heroes who don’t wear capes and plot twists that would put the best K-drama to shame.

Post-tournament withdrawals can be seen around the city of Doha.

The chants are over, the Souq Waqif stalls are now selling football paraphernalia at half price. Qatar is now back to what it was before – a wealthy Gulf country with one of the largest reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

Needless to say, this year’s edition will go down in history as one of the most memorable World Cups ever – if not for the fantastic hosting Qatar has done, but for one of the greatest finals in football history.

By now, Argentina being the champ is stale news, even a copy of the World Cup trophy is now all snug and safe in Buenos Aires, much to the delight of the fans of the La Albiceleste.

However, many may not realise how much winning the trophy means for the 46 million Argentinians.

The country has been hit by a prolonged economic crisis that destroyed the value of the Argentinian peso. The inflation rate in Argentina increased to 92.4 per cent in November, from 88 per cent the previous month, wiping out savings and hopes for better lives. It has been reported that the middle class has been severely affected.

The situation was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, shrinking global food supplies, rising energy costs and the economic fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war.

Homelessness due to this crisis is also on the rise. Thousands of people occupy vacant lots on some of the streets in Buenos Aires after losing their jobs.

So yes, winning the World Cup provided joy beyond football victory for the Argentinians, a solid reprieve from what seems to be an endless battle for survival.

Many of those in Doha had mentioned how the World Cup journey represented different narratives for all those involved.

Unlike the Argentinians, Qatar may not have had a good run in the matches, having been eliminated after its first two games. But for the Qataris, being the host is enough reason to be proud of their country, and to rejoice in the success of handling such a colossal task, which many had doubted.

Most of the football fans I met all sang praises for Qatar and will be leaving the country with fond memories of the previously little-known Qatari hospitality.

Unlike Argentina, Qatar – with a much smaller population and a much more stable economy – has no concerns about the economic or financial state of the nation. The country has around 25 billion barrels in oil reserves, which are projected to last for another 38 years.

Qatar’s trouble, however, is different. The country faces a continuous uphill battle of ‘proving’ to the Western media exclusively, how they are worthy of being touted as one of the best World Cup hosts in history, and in doing so, by adhering to their own set of Qatari rules.

Their refusal to pander to values that are seen as Western, and not Qatari, made headlines before, and way after, the World Cup.

The most recent issue being the ‘bisht’ that was placed on Argentina’s Lionel Messi during the award ceremony. Headlines such as ‘Messi forced to cover Argentina shirt to lift World Cup trophy’, and Twitter users accusing Qatar of attempting to wipe out Argentina culture, have gained traction over the past few days.

“Don’t they know how much we (Qataris) love Messi and supported Argentina to win?” responded a Qatari when asked about the matter.

If one were to head to the Fan Fest, or any street in Doha, most Qataris can be seen waving the Argentinian flag or wearing their jersey.

Many came out explaining that the long cloak which was placed on Messi by the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al Thani, is reserved for dignitaries, and that to be given the robe, represented the utmost honour and respect.

“But of course, Western media will twist, and turn it into something negative. Qatar can do nothing right,” said an Indian national who has been in Qatar for more than 10 years.

It has been a joyous and exuberant event, nonetheless. As World Cup travellers slowly drag their feet back to their home countries, replaying football moments in their heads, and dreading the thought of going back to their daily grind, one can’t deny the magic of football.

How it brings people together, how it gives hope and restores faith, when everything else seems so hard, the 90-minute euphoria is the saviour we need.

There will always be those who love to magnify the negatives for personal gain or for clout, but for those who have gained so much from the esprit de corps in football, we can ignore them, and rejoice until the next games.

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

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