SOME foreign media have projected Qatar, hosts of the football World Cup in 2022, as a conservative, rigid, and even a rude nation.
And so just before boarding my flight to Doha, I had all these uneasy feelings about the capital city with their futuristic skyscrapers and other ultramodern architecture.
It did not help too when I read reports of abuse and ill treatment of migrant workers preparing the country to host one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
Against this background, I wondered whether the Qataris would be ready to be the perfect hosts – given the searing heat and dusty conditions of a tournament showcasing 32 countries and televised live for the world to see.
However, the moment I landed at Hamad International Airport, all the perceptions and negative news seemed flawed.
Ali (not Baba), but an Indian man from Bengal and my chauffeur, assuaged all my fears. He assured me that all’s well – explaining to me the significance of each building in the city and how the Qataris are beaming with pride to see the World Cup in three years.
Even the migrant workers and others are excited to see the World Cup. With legislation on workers’ rights being emphasised by the administrators, things do look rosy for them.
My assignment on hand was the Amir Cup final between Qatar Stars League club Al Duhail and Al-Saad at the World Cup venue – Al Janoub Stadium.
Al Duhail won 4-0 but to me, the final is a testament of the country’s preparedness for the World Cup in three years.
Dutch football legend Ruud Gullit’s words were certainly telling – “I think Qatar have made a statement through this venue.”
With six more stadiums to be completed by the end of 2020, the nation is taking the host job very seriously. The two stadiums completed are equipped with cooling systems.
Even with the political and trade blockade by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, Qatar has also shown that it can sustain on its own and be progressive in every field.
Not just the infrastructure, but the launch of the newly built arena broke traditional stereotypes. Gender inequality is a prevalent issue in the Middle East, but Qatar has somewhat shown that women are playing a crucial role in its development.
The genius behind the Al Janoub Stadium was a lady from Iraq. The late Zaha Hadid, a renowned British-Iraqi architect, has indeed played a major role in dispelling the stereotypes.
The stadium is iconic, innovative cooling system and all, some Qataris have called it a monument for the nation. To me, it was a statement of the country’s progressiveness.
All these developments mean that the country is ready to cater to all forms of fans with the promise of a gala time for all and sundry from Nov 21 to Dec 18 in 2022.
Qatar is also building a new metro line, improving its already impressive hospitality sector, constructing iconic arenas and working on making the tournament the most environmentally friendly.
I, for one, believe that the country is the right choice for the World Cup. The stadiums may have the traditional elements of Qatar, but modernity is something that the nation is never shy off.
Despite all the criticisms of inhumane attitude and even allegations of buying of votes to get the host job, I believe the Qataris, given their determination, will shock the world by presenting a football extravagance for the world to behold.