What it’s really like in Qatar for FIFA World Cup 2022
On Sunday, the month-long tournament will conclude with either Argentina’s Lionel Messi hoisting the World Cup trophy for the first time or with France becoming only the third country to win consecutive championships.
FIFA’s flagship event is often a hectic affair, and the 2022 edition didn’t disappoint, boasting headlines from a beer ban to historic football upsets. Here’s a wrap of events:
Authorities in Doha reversed a promise to permit alcohol sales in stadiums, announcing just days before the start of the tournament that booze would only be available at concession stands away from the action and in VIP seating.
The move drew criticism from football fans and chants of “We want beer” from the tribunes, while alcohol sponsor Anheuser-Busch InBev NV pledged to donate its unsold suds to fans from the winning country. Still, the ban was brushed off by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who defended Qatar’s decision by saying fans “will survive” not consuming beer for three hours.
Even before the ban, the tournament had been beset with controversies, ranging from the need to reschedule the tournament — traditionally held in the summer — due to Qatar’s desert heat to the Gulf state’s treatment of migrant workers.
FIFA shot down some players’ plans to wear rainbow armbands during matches in solidarity with LGBTQ communities in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
Germany’s team instead posted a photo of its players covering their mouths and a statement on their position, saying: “Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice.”
Energy-rich Qatar, with a population of about 3 million, spent an estimated $300 billion on the event, dwarfing previous spending records.
The lavish spending on infrastructure and stadiums triggered accusations of so-called sportswashing that claimed Qatar was using the most-watched event in the world to improve its reputation. Still, it is FIFA that might reap the biggest benefits from all the hype; the organization said Friday it will earn $1 billion more than expected from this four-year World Cup cycle.
On the Pitch Upsets
From Saudi Arabia’s historic win over Argentina to Japan’s victory over Germany, the World Cup featured many underdogs beating the odds. The biggest surprise was the magic run of Morocco, which beat football powerhouses Spain, Portugal and Belgium to become the first African team ever to advance to the semifinals.
Morocco ended up losing to Croatia on Dec. 17 for the third place match where more than 44,000 onlookers watched.
The World Cup expanded its audience beyond traditional football-loving nations in Europe and Latin America to enjoy a surge of watchers in the US and Asia. The match on Nov. 25 between the US and England broke a ratings record for the sport on American television.
Squads from Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa — regions that have long been on the sidelines of World Cup glory — together accounted for a higher share of goals than ever before.
Despite the slew of controversies during the first-ever World Cup held in a Middle Eastern country, all eyes on Sunday are on the match between France and Argentina. Whether or not Qatar will get a return on its vast investment was, at least for a day, of secondary importance to who will win the trophy.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.