Fifa World Cup: Qatar set to live up to Arab world's love for football guts and glory

Doha promises to put up a spectacular event management show for the eagerly-awaited showstopper event

By Joydeep Sen Gupta reporting from Doha

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View of Qatar's capital Doha, as the Gulf emirate prepares for the Fifa 2022 football World Cup. Photo: AFP
View of Qatar's capital Doha, as the Gulf emirate prepares for the Fifa 2022 football World Cup. Photo: AFP

Published: Sun 13 Nov 2022, 6:57 PM

Last updated: Sun 13 Nov 2022, 7:55 PM

Few gave Qatar, the tiny gas-rich sheikdom in the Arabian Gulf peninsula that has the fourth-highest GDP in the world, a chance when it had bagged the rights to stage the 22nd edition of the Fifa World Cup — slated to be held between November 20 and December 18 in its capital Doha and surrounding areas — in 2010 in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member had won the bid at the expense of Australia, Japan, South Korea and the USA.


Two other nations — Indonesia and Mexico had left the fray due to a lack of government support and financial constraints, respectively.

Is Qatar, with a population of less than three million, ready to stage an event of this magnitude, where 32 best football-playing nations are vying for the coveted title in the quadrennial tournament and are expecting to play host to over 1.2 million visitors?


Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

In all readiness

The only country among the 22-nation Arab world is all set for Fifa guts and glory.

The readiness is apparent as one travels to Doha from Dubai International Airport (DXB) by a late evening flight of Qatar Airways — the only airline to be awarded for a record seventh time as “Airline of the Year” — to Doha’s Hamad International Airport, which has been adjudged as the best in the category for the second consecutive year.

Qatar Airways’ senior agent, Gulsemin, a Turkish national, was at pains to explain the Qatari government’s policy for travellers to Doha ahead of the Fifa World Cup such as the importance of carrying a mandatory fan card, which is called Hayya, including free travel on Doha Metro, Lusail Tram and Karwa Bus Service.

On arrival at the Hamad International Airport following a brief 50-minute flight, Fifa volunteers of diverse nationalities can be seen across the sprawling facility, connecting over 150 destinations across the globe by air and directing visitors towards the Karwa Bus or Taxi Service.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Welcome to Doha

Doha, a happy blend of traditional Arab architecture and inspired Western living such as Pearl Island, is lit up at night to welcome visitors, as tree-lined boulevards, manicured pathways, and decorated roundabouts are in readiness.

The Qatari authorities have announced that 70,000 additional rooms are available for football fans that can be booked via the Qatar Accommodation Agency (QAA) portal.

Each double-seater room costs $120 (Dh440.77) per night.

Besides hotel rooms, there are an array of accommodation options on the portal, such as service apartments and villas, fan villages that have access to entertainment hubs, dhows and holiday homes.

However, cruise ship hotels are the biggest game-changer amid the easing of the Covid-19 restrictions and visitors and fans can enter the country only with a valid Hayya Card without an RT-PCR test for the raging viral outbreak that had brought the world to a standstill for the past two years.

Daily shuttle flights

Qatar Airways has announced that other Arabian Gulf airlines will operate more than 160 daily shuttle flights to Qatar during the showpiece event, allowing fans to fly in from adjoining cities before a game and return at the end of the day.

Emirates’ low-cost carrier flydubai, Oman Air, Kuwait Airways and Saudia from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) would operate shuttle flights. The UAE’s Etihad Airways and Air Arabia may also join the scheme.

Match Day Shuttle tickets have been sold at competitive prices along with rotating frequencies from Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait City, Muscat and Riyadh as the Qatari authorities are ready to tackle the influx of visitors and fans.

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

The peak period

Jaber Hammoud Jabr Al-Nuaimi, the spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the 2022 Fifa World Cup football tournament, said, “We’re expecting the maximum number of visitors between November 24 and 28 during the group matches and our estimate shows that each fan is likely to spend around seven days in the country.”

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Data shows that over 2.9 million tickets have been sold to date, and not even five per cent are up for grabs. The demand is highest among residents in host Qatar, followed by the USA, the KSA, England, Mexico, the UAE, Argentina, France, Brazil and Germany.

Mohamed Salah. Photo: Reuters
Mohamed Salah. Photo: Reuters

Salah’s successor?

In the run-up to the eagerly-awaited tournament, which kicks off next Sunday, the chatter on the streets in Doha centre on some of the leading Arab footballers, who will be seen in action, including France’s Karim Mostafa Benzema, Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi, the KSA’s Salem Al-Dawsari, host Qatar’s Almoez Ali and Tunisia’s Illyes Skhiri.

Consensus abounds that Mohamed Salah’s absence will be felt in the beautiful game after Egypt dropped a penalty shoot-out to Senegal at the final hurdle and missed an opportunity to book a berth in Qatar.

The jury is still out on who will be Salah’s worthy successor in the Arab football world.

joydeep@khaleejtimes.com


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