Fifa World Cup Special Report: A historic moment for the region

Fans rally behind country and exalt its efforts in building bridges between communities and people



AP
AP
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 19 Nov 2022, 11:15 PM

Last updated: Sat 19 Nov 2022, 11:20 PM

If there is one thing we have learned from the beautiful game, it is that the team with the positive style that always finishes the 90 minutes with smiles on their faces.

For the past several years, watching Qatar make a herculean effort to host the 2022 World Cup, is comparable to seeing some of the greatest football teams that ever set foot on this planet.

Those countless hours of hard work and planning are sure to bear fruit on Sunday as Qatar kick off the celebrations when their national team take on Ecuador in the opening match at the Al Bayt Stadium, one of seven magnificent venues in the country.

It’s a historic moment and one that has left many burning with jealousy and frustration.

Reuters
Reuters

Taking a dig at the detractors, Fifa chief Gianni Infantino sent out a powerful message on Sunday.

"Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African," Infantino said during the pre-event press conference at the Qatar National Convention Centre.

“Of course, I am not Qatari, I am not an Arab, I am not African. But I feel like it, because I know what it means to be discriminated against as a foreigner in a foreign country,” said Infantino who was born to Italian immigrants in Switzerland.

"As a child I was bullied – because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian. So imagine what do you do then? You try to engage, make friends. Don't start accusing, fighting, insulting, you start engaging.

"This is what we should be doing."

The head of the world’s most powerful sports body was not the only one speaking in Qatar’s defence. Even the common man on the streets of Doha have rallied behind the country and exalted its efforts in building bridges between communities and people.

AFP
AFP

For Ahmed, who moved to Doha from Syria seven years ago, Qatar is an inspiration to embrace excellence.

“Don’t listen to what people are saying in the western world. I have lived in Qatar for many years now. I can tell you that the people here have been amazing to all of us who have made this our adopted home,” Ahmed told the Khaleej Times.

“The way they have worked to put the infrastructure in place is unbelievable. You can’t feel it unless you see it. I genuinely believe that this World Cup is going to be the biggest in history,” added Ahed, who is by habit an Argentinan supporter.

“But for this World Cup, I am supporting Qatar. Not just because they are an Arab team, but for what they have done for the whole Arab world by bringing an event like the World Cup to this region.”

Like Ahmed, there are other expats who are rooting for Qatar at this World Cup.

Hussain, who has been supporting his family back home in Ethiopia with the money he earns by driving a taxi in Qatar, said: “Moving to another country has never crossed my mind. I love it here, it’s a very nice place and the local people here are very nice and friendly.

AFP
AFP

“The people who are coming here for the World Cup, they are really going to enjoy this,” added Hussain who was only 20 when he moved to Qatar from Ethiopia in 2011.

Upon learning that this writer was on assignment covering the World Cup, Hussain could not help but smile.

“When you first asked me about the World Cup in Qatar, I told you what I feel about it. I didn’t know that you were a journalist. So you know I am telling you the truth,” he remarked.

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