In front of more than 5,400 friends and colleagues, 24 workers integral to the delivery of the Qatar Football World Cup who had helped deliver key Football World Cup projects overseen by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take to the field to play against, and alongside, some of the most iconic names in global football FIFA Legends at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.
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The workers had been part of projects related to the eight state-of-the-art stadiums and 42 training sites and were selected based on their passion for football, their involvement in their community football program, and their past participation in the Workers’ Cup an annual tournament organized by the SC and Qatar Football Association for all those working in the country. The FIFA Legends, who included Football World Cup winners Marco Materazzi, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Youri Djorkaeff, and Alessandro Del Piero played two 30-minute halves. Al Thumama Stadium hosted eight matches during the FIFA World Cup.
Former England captain, and two-time FIFA World Cup player John Terry, praised the initiative. “It’s a great idea from FIFA to give back to some of the workers who have put so much hard work into the fantastic stadiums, he said after the game. To open the stadium up to other fans to come and see [it] free of charge, as well. It’s fantastic. It’s just great for them to come and play with us, but also for us to meet them personally, and experience the pitch. As ex-players, it’s always nice.”
Meanwhile, one of the participants lining up against the FIFA Legends, Justice Boye Odoi from Ghana, said it was an experience he would never forget. It was amazing, he said after the game. I enjoyed everything. It was like a dream come true to see some of these guys. They are legends. The emotions were amazing, I enjoyed every bit of it. I was excited to see [Alessandro] Del Piero, especially, and Clarence Seedorf. They are amazing players.
“I went one-on-one with Marco Materazzi. That was one of the most exciting moments for me. I’ve always dreamed of playing with these guys or seeing them, so it was an amazing experience” he added.
With both FIFA President and SC Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi in attendance the former even taking the opportunity to officiate the opening stages further opportunity was presented to showcase the strong, ongoing, and joint commitment concerning workers’ welfare that remains in place beyond the final whistle of the tournament.
Football World Cup may not be carbon-neutral, as FIFA claims
Souk Waqif in Doha, Qatar, is a colourful place even when there aren’t thousands of football fans jostling to occupy its antique shops, restaurants, and shisha lounges. In the late afternoon sun, the mud-brick facades of the marketplace glow orange as the sweet smells of tobacco and molasses mingle with delicate perfumes and the smell of grilled lamb.
The market’s main thoroughfare leads into the ultra-modern Msheireb district, where, during the group stages of the football World Cup, the digital bell of yellow electric tram chimes as the vehicle approaches a group of Iranian football fans exhaling loudly through tuneless vuvuzelas. These emissions are welcome in Qatar, but FIFA says it’s focused on reducing the more insidious kind at this tournament, perhaps establishing a blueprint for more sustainable future FIFA World Cups in the process.
Football’s governing body claims that this month-long mega-event will be the first carbon-neutral World Cup. Its June 2021 report stated that the tournament was expected to produce 3.63 million tonnes and 4 million tons of carbon dioxide about a third more than the last World Cup, in Russia, according to the United Nations. Net-zero carbon dioxide emissions will be achieved, FIFA claims, with the purchase of carbon credits in renewable energy projects in Turkey and Serbia. However, that doesn’t add up for Gilles Dufrasne, policy officer at carbon emission watchdog Carbon Market Watch, which has examined FIFA’s accounting of emissions.
FIFA says it’s purchased carbon credits that generate extra emission reductions that would not have happened without the finance, but it’s sending money to projects that don’t need it. The finance has no impact on the decision of the project to go ahead or not so it’s not generating extra reductions. Besides, guidance from the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference’s High-Level Expert Group states that offsets should not be used when trying to reduce emissions and that events that take money or support from fossil fuel companies cannot claim carbon neutrality. 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.
“This World Cup is sponsored by Qatar Energy and funded primarily by government dollars that emanated from oil, speaks Dr. Madeleine Orr of The Sport Ecology Group, who is writing a book on sport and climate change”.
Business media company Forbes estimates that the event has cost Qatar US$220 billion. Part of that bill covers the construction of stadiums, the largest of which is in Lusail, a new smart city 29km 18 miles north of Doha. The carbon footprint of the six permanent stadiums built from scratch for the tournament is estimated by FIFA to be 200,000 tonnes of CO2.
“We estimate that it’s more like 1.6 million tonnes, says Dufrasne. They took the assumption that the stadiums are going to exist for 60 years so are only taking responsibility for the two months the World Cup is going on.”
Nevertheless, this Football World Cup has introduced some innovative ideas around the concept of sustainability. One venue, the demountable Stadium 974, was built with 974 shipping containers. It will be dismantled after the World Cup and, it is claimed, sent somewhere it’s needed. The idea of having a stadium that can be disassembled, transported, reassembled, and reused somewhere else is an interesting concept, but it depends on how the stadium continues to be used and how far it will be transported, speaks Dufrasne. That remains to be seen.
Of the 616 fleet vehicles sponsor Hyundai has provided for the tournament, 226 are hybrid electric or battery electric models, while 10 electric buses have been made available to the media. The use of electric vehicles is a first for a Football World Cup. In the huge Fan Festival zone, on Doha’s Corniche promenade, FIFA and Hyundai have built a small museum from rammed earth, packed with mementoes including the Football World Cup trophy itself. The museum will be returned to nature after the tournament. Outside the museum is an attention-grabbing sustainability metaphor. Titled The Greatest Goal, the permanent artwork is a huge goalpost featuring two outstretched hands holding each other as part of the crossbar.
“I crafted the intricately woven steel mesh entirely out of recycled stainless steel and the net is woven with recycled linen by Qatari fishermen,” declares Italian sculptor Lorenzo Quinn, a member of Team Century, Hyundai’s Football World Cup sustainability ambassadors.
These efforts could easily be dismissed as greenwashing deceptively using imagery and unsubstantiated claims to give the appearance of being eco-friendly, but that an electric-car maker is promoting sustainability in a Gulf state shouldn’t be underestimated.
“Ten years ago, sustainability and sustainable innovation were not discussed in the Gulf region and it’s still very much taboo due to its close ties to oil,” speaks Orr.
There are some interesting initiatives around ground transport and green construction coming together for the FIFA World Cup, but it’s tinkering around the edges of the main contributors to the carbon footprint. No discussion about a Football World Cup and sustainability can be had without reference to travel, both to the event and between venues. Everyone I have spoken to speaks they have enjoyed the compactness of this Football World Cup, tells Matt Slater, a senior football news reporter for sports news outlet The Athletic UK. All eight venues being used are in or close to Doha, the furthest distance between stadiums being 55km. They have liked not having to move about a big country, they have gone to multiple games and although beer has been expensive, they have saved money on travel.
Their in-country carbon footprints have been modest, too. Doha’s metro and bus system have been free for all fans, while taxis and Uber cars are cheap. The latter is simple to arrange thanks to every fan having been given a free local 5G SIM card. FIFA has reported that fans from Saudi Arabia which shares a land border with Qatar and India top the list of countries whose citizens have applied for Hayya cards, special visas for those attending Football World Cup matches, however, many of the around 1.2 million football visitors have flown much further, and FIFA has estimated that travel will account for 51.7 per cent of the World Cup’s carbon footprint. Meanwhile, the BBC estimates that there have been 500 daily flights in and out of Doha from neighbouring Gulf countries, somewhat negating the environmental benefits of having a compact, Olympics-style World Cup in a single city. The 2026 World Cup finals will be expanded to include 48 competing countries and be hosted by 16 cities across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, all using existing stadiums. However, fans will probably take many flights between host cities.
So, what does FIFA need to do to create a sustainable Football World Cup? It will need to shift away from a tourism-dominant model to a more locally-focused one, argues Brian McCullough, director of the Centre for Sport Management Research and Education at Texas A&M University. Prioritize hosts with existing venues, scale down to 15,000-20,000 seat stadiums and reduce the number of international followers. Although Qatar’s one-city FIFA World Cup has some practical advantages for visitors, it’s likely to remain an expensive anomaly both financially and environmentally.
Has Qatar proved that an Olympic-style World Cup can work and is attractive to followers, players, and broadcasters? asks Slater. Yes, it has. But how many places are there that would spend this much money with this much disruption and scrutiny on a month of sport? I think the Qatar World Cup is a one-off.
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