Argentina are the worthy champions of the Fifa World Cup, Morocco stole our hearts and were crowned Arab heroes. But the real winners of this tournament are undoubtedly Qatar, a small peninsular nation with a large heart who have successfully staged the twenty-second edition in style, leaving no stone unturned and sparing no expense to make it memorable for millions of frenzied fans from across the world.
Twelve years ago, they sprang a surprise by winning the bid to host the event. Today, they have proven the naysayers and critics wrong. They have again surprised by hosting the sporting world’s biggest spectacle that reached its climax on Sunday after 30 gripping nights of action.
Qatar, fans say, have been football’s most welcoming host in half a century. They have opened a new chapter in football diplomacy and charted out a new path for the game to spread after the horrors of the pandemic. Indeed, football will traverse farther East and down South as it captivates and unites more diverse audiences. This performance in Doha gives the game new legs. It will make the beautiful game more bountiful, where all are welcome, from the East to the West, from the North to the South.
This, in fact, has been a tournament of the underdogs, going by the performance of unfancied teams led by Morocco, Japan, South Korea and Cameroon, who showed spunk and spirit on the field. While these teams made us sit up and take notice with their performances on the field, Qatar held us spellbound off it. They pulled it off without incident after the Western media unfairly targeted the GCC nation for what they claimed were human rights violations and a lack of transparency. Doha remained calm all through the envy, anguish and hair-pulling by Western critics and the media that stemmed from hypocrisy which Fifa chief Gianni Infantino called out before the start of the tournament. While Western critics railed against the country, Qatar built assiduously. They even raised a new city for the tournament named Lusail from the barren sands with the main stadium of this tournament as the centrepiece for $45 billion.
Such was their determination to make it happen for the masses clamouring for happiness and a slice of football heaven on earth. Costs of staging the massive tournament may have exceeded $200 billion according to some estimates but Qatar always focused on the larger picture, never taking its eye off the ball even as critics in the West complained about strong beverages not being served in stadiums. This successful edition of the World Cup will inspire other Gulf and Arab nations to host bigger tournaments. The UAE is already a sporting hub, having staged major cricket and tennis tournaments. It had shown some interest to host the 2016 Olympics. Now, it is expected to set its sights higher and firmer on major events. Saudi Arabia is considering a bid to host a football World Cup in two decades. Sport is part of the diversification and opening up of the oil and gas-rich countries of the GCC. Qatar’s Fifa World Cup is just a kick-off in the grand scheme of things for the region, and there’s more to come. Our cup of joy overflows.
Given the accelerating spread of AMR and the long lead-in time to develop antibiotics, we can’t afford to continue overlooking the problem.