Qatar’s fist ever hosting of the FIFA World Cup has brought some historic wonders and transformation to this sport contest ever since it was first played 92 years ago. It was not just its first ever venue into any Arab and a Muslim country but has also spawned some new lavish standards of the splendour, layouts of the hospitality, opulence and facilities. Even further, it has rocked the patterns of its winners, champions and star players shifting the mantle more to the East and African enthusiasts from the traditional European and South American giants.
Four Muslim countries accomplished a promising breakthrough despite the fact that Qatar, the host, at the very start, lost to Ecuador by 2-0. Yet the odds against Qatar’s debut contesting an experienced rival ranked third in its group, were rather quite arduous. Morocco however, mauled Spain in penalties that triumphed as a gold medalist in 2010 and went ahead to beat Belgium that had been ranked second among the contestants. It thus became the first Arab African Muslim country to reach the semifinals where it was defeated by France.
Saudi Arabia similarly scored the greatest ever shock in the world cup annals, as it stunned Argentina, that was not merely ranked third, had already carried the World Cup in 1978 and 1986 and also eventually rose to reap this year’s gold. Tunisia, an Arab and Muslim country in the north Africa, likewise, rocked France that was ranked fourth, had already been a two-time gold medalist in the 1998 and 2018 and even finished as a fabulous runner up in this festival.
Sports galas generally involve some unexpected sagas, swings and upsets. Yet the Qatar contest brought not only some most unexpected upsets but also eroded the concept and credentials of the FIFA ranking and projections. Cameroon, a country from central Africa, ranked at position 33 by FIFA, for instance rocked the top ranked Brazil, that has already been a five times gold medalist. Some other tectonic shifts in the festival according to some commentators, were that four of the sixteen finalist teams in this festival, emerged from Asia and Africa. This count in a way, rather reaches five because Australia as per FIFA categorisation, is also included in the Asia Football Confederation.
Yet the most crowning kudus for Qatar, was its resolve, confidence and the bid to hold this fabulous global event in this Arab and Muslim part of the world. The FIFA authorities, evidently being aware of its immense oil and gas bonanza, the capacities and the comradery with the global expertise to organise and host the festival, accepted its bid in 2010. The mission for this grand undertaking for a country with the skeletal facilities and a population of about two million people was indeed a tremendous challenge. It invested over 300 billion dollars, in its twelve years preparations for this mega contest since 2010 when it got the go ahead to hold the festival to the final kick off stage. Russia, in contrast had barely spent $12.7 in 2018, Brazil about $15 billion in 2014 and South Africa about four billion in 2010. One reason for this mammoth input was that Qatar unlike some earlier hosts, had far lesser spread and expanse of the stadia and other related infra structure evolved over the years.
FIFA has formed some stringent standards, regulations and niceties, over the years since 1930, the first festival. For instance, it required eight stadia made to its standards and specifications. Qatar proffered nine and also renovated its three other venues. One of them with a seating capacity for about forty thousand also involved some recycled steel materials from containers. Given the higher temperatures in Qatar, extensive air conditioning systems had to be maintained. Extensive travel and accommodation facilities like world class metros, railways, conveniently connecting cross country networks and hotels had to be built. Terms of contracts for builders, contractors and experts had to be revied. Even the labour laws including its congealed kafala system, mandating the dependency of migrant workers on the native sponsorship, were revamped. The harsh working conditions even involved several hundred deaths of the migrant workers.
The festival, as per estimates, has already contributed over $20 billion to Qatar’s economy and its GDP, in contrast to the region’s expected growth of 3.1% is expected to rise to 4.1% by the end of the year. The appeal of its new innovative infra structure and hospitality standards, would evidently impart a new momentum to its tourist trade and attractions. Yet the most marvelous emblem for Qatar, has been that the country despite its traditional religious beliefs and culture and contrary to some rigid regressive Muslim states, has the will, competence, inspiration and the resources to invest, opt and move with the emerging global glams and trends to become a partner of the modern world.