The Football World Cup kicked off in Qatar on Sunday with the Muslim nation, which confronted a barrage of condemnation over its treatment of overseas workers, LGBT rights, and social limits, staking its name on delivering a smooth tournament. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani came to the stadium flanked by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, to a boisterous crowd, and took their seats along with other Arab leaders.
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A show then stretched on the pitch, including three camels, American actor Morgan Freeman and a piece of a new tournament song called Dreamers showcasing singer Jungkook of K-pop boy band BTS, along with Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi. Saudi Arabia’s crown gentleman and the presidents of Egypt, Turkey, and Algeria, as well as the United Nations Secretary-General, are among the leaders attending in a tent-shaped stadium in advance of the first game between the hosts and Ecuador.
Qatar, which has denied allegations of abuse of workers and discrimination, and FIFA hope the limelight will now turn to act on the pitch. Organizers have also rejected allegations of bribery for hosting rights. Inside Al Bayt Stadium many chairs were still vacant with gridlock on the superhighway leading to the arena, where cheers went up as Qatar’s team looked for their opening game. The football tournament World Cup, the first held in the Middle East and the costliest in its history, is a result of Qatar’s soft power push, after a 3-1/2-year boycott by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain which ended in 2021.
The UAE, whose compromise with Doha has been slower than that of Riyadh and Cairo, sent its vice president who is also the leader of Dubai, where many Football World Cup followers have opted to stay. For the first time, a direct business flight from Tel Aviv to Doha landed in Qatar on Sunday even though the absence of formal joint ties, in a deal brokered by FIFA to carry both Palestinians and Israelis to the tournament World Cup.
The Gulf state’s Deputy Prime Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah, in comments on state media, told Qatar was gaining the benefits of years of hard work and sound planning. On Saturday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino rounded on European critics of Qatar, stating commitment was the only way to enhance rights, while Doha has also pointed to labour changes. Denmark’s and Germany’s squad captains will wear One Love armbands as they get ready to participate in a conservative Muslim state where same-sex relations are banned. Organizers say all are welcome while warning in opposition to public fondness.
Throngs of followers were now arriving in Qatar, although the main rush will be later this week. Daniel Oordt from Holland, clad in orange, told Reuters there was a feeling of constant tension around you not to say the wrong thing or make the wrong move.
“It’s not a fun atmosphere to have at a Football World Cup.”
Argentina fan Julio Cesar though stated he expected a great ambience. We’ll drink before the game; he added after alcohol auctions at stadiums were banned. Visitors sipped beer at the FIFA Fan Festival in central Doha. Outside the city’s edges, hundreds of workers gathered in a sports arena in an industrial zone, without alcohol. They can watch matches there, priced out of the stadiums many toiled to build along with other infrastructure for the event.
Of course, I didn’t buy a ticket. They’re pricey and I should use that money for other things like sending it back home to my family, Ghanaian national Kasim, a security guard who has acted in Qatar for four years, told Reuters.
Gas exporter Qatar is the tiniest nation to host football’s biggest global event. Crowd control will be key with some 1.2 million visitors estimated more than a third of its population. Workers were putting final touches to Doha’s landscape, draping a purple tarpaulin over an unfinished building near the stadium where the final will be held. At Lagoona Mall, people were going about their business.
“I came now because I don’t know how bad the traffic will be later this week,” stated Egyptian woman Esraa, grocery shopping
Benzema blow, Brazil arrives
All 32 teams competing at the World Cup have now arrived, with five-time champions Brazil the last to touch down in Doha late on Saturday. Defending champions France suffered another injury hammer blow early Sunday after confirmation that star striker and Ballon D’Or winner Karim Benzema had been forced out of the tournament with injury. The Real Madrid star limped out of a training session at the French camp on Saturday evening with a left thigh injury. The French federation later confirmed in a statement that the 34-year-old would require a recovery period of three weeks and would play no part in the competition.
“I am extremely sad for Karim, for whom this World Cup was a major objective,” said France coach Didier Deschamps, who has decided not to replace the forward.
Despite this new blow for the France team, I have full faith in my squad. We will do all we can to rise to the huge challenge that awaits us. Benzema’s withdrawal comes with France already battling the injury absence of star midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. Belgium is also reeling from an injury blow after striker Romelu Lukaku was ruled out of the Red Devils’ opening two games as he continues to recover from a hamstring problem.
Australia winger Martin Boyle joined the list of footballers who will play no part in the tournament. Head coach Graham Arnold said the winger had failed to recover from a knee injury. Worldwide Tickets and Hospitality offers Football World Cup tickets for the Qatar Football World Cup at the best prices. Football fanatics and buy Football World Cup Tickets at exclusively discounted prices.
“We all feel for Martin and it is a cruel blow for him,” Arnold said.
Fans’ countries’ teams aren’t even in the Qatar Football World Cup. So why are these followers travelling to Qatar?
The housing is in tents or prefabs, there’s no beer in the stadiums, the high temperature is dangerously hot and the whole event is mired in debate over alleged human rights abuses. While that’s not enough to deter hardcore football fans from moving to Qatar to support their national squads in the Football World Cup, more remarkably, it hasn’t been sufficient to deter even those whose country squads aren’t even in the competition.
Walk across the narrow streets of downtown Doha and you can’t help but get caught up in Football World Cup fever, with followers from all four corners of the globe gathering in rectangles and restaurants to remember their cultures with one another. The sunsets are especially busy, with groups gathering by country, singing their hearts out to the constant rhythm of drums that resonate through downtown Doha. One of the loudest groups in the days running up to kickoff was a pocket of England followers from India.
The group is fully organized, wearing the same shirt with the name of England captain Harry Kane on the back. They arrogantly sing songs linked with the English national squad, but they mix them with traditional songs from back home. The fans went viral last week, with people blaming them for being fake followers, used to create the sense of people enjoying a Football World Cup that, thanks to the controversy near its Middle Eastern hosts, may lack the usual pizazz of the tournament held every four years. Qatar Football World Cup organizers, as well as FIFA, rubbished the claims and a member of the group told CNN that he was surprised to see the headlines.
“We are a fan group from Kerala, in South India,” he stated, too busy singing and dancing to give his full name.
India is not in the tournament, and we have always loved England. We used to watch David Beckham play so we are passionate about England in Qatar. These fans are representative of a wider theme of the Qatar Football World Cup, which has allowed many to get a taste of the Football World Cup action. Ali Abbadi is from Jordan and currently lives in Dubai. He spoke to CNN as he explored Souq Waqif, a marketplace that has become a hub of fan activity.
“I’m here because it’s a good opportunity and it’s very close to our country, he said. In 2018, Football World Cup was too far from our country but now we feel the FIFA World Cup is in our home. In the Middle East, we always watch football. Football is our life.”
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