By Faisal Abdulhameed al-Mudahka/Editor-in-Chief
When His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani received the host’s mantle for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Moscow yesterday, it marked a major milestone in the annals of the international soccer tournament that will be held four years from now in Qatar.
On 2 December 2010, Qatar was fairly awarded the honour of hosting the 2022 World Cup, beating off bids from the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Korea. The surprising, yet deserved, victory made Qatar the first Middle Eastern country to host football’s biggest tournament - from November 21 to December 18.
The achievements deriving from Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup complement the numerous positive results generated by the soft power and public diplomacy the country has been practising for decades. As indicated in the article and in other regional and international reports, this achievement is a partial translation of Qatar’s outlook towards a bright and thriving region.
In other words, Qatar has been able to be a glowing and successful role model in the region through investing in soft power projects like Qatar Foundation, Qatar Investment Authority, Qatar Airways, Aljazeera Media Network, beIN Sports, Qatar Media Corporation represented by Al Kass Sports channels and other big development projects. Adding to that, Qatar has emerged as the largest exporter of LNG in the world. Following this path, Qatar presents itself as an inspiring model for other countries in the region to follow in its footsteps.
Unfortunately though, while the optimism is at its fullest, the hosting country still has to overcome the many hurdles created by the Gulf crisis of 2017. Although the siege didn’t affect the preparations for the tournament, the psychological impact of it has left a huge shock on the people of the region.
One year has passed since the crisis was ‘created’ but Qatar still holds a firm belief that the Kuwaiti mediation will work and that people of the region will have the wonderful opportunity of experiencing an exceptional and unique tournament that brings together people not only of the same religion and culture, but also races, beliefs, and ideologies.
As a result of the crisis, many football fans from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt have missed the golden opportunity of taking part in 2022 World Cup initiatives and programmes launched by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), the body responsible for organising the tournament. They were also deprived of the World Cup-related business and huge job opportunities, a loss for not only our friends and brothers in the ‘blockade quartet’, but also for all in the GCC and the region as a whole.
There is always hope that the crisis will end soon, and that people from everywhere in the region will be allowed by their governments to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime and first-ever World Cup experience in the Middle East.
Alongside fans’ welfare Qatar wants this tournament to be a good reconciliation opportunity for the region. For decades now, wars have taken their toll on nations and states alike. Generations of young people have been wasted in civil and sectarian conflicts waged in the name of ideologies. The hope now that an international event like the World Cup happening in the region will bring with it nations and people together from everywhere. It is a solid belief in the power of sport to bring peoples together.
In line with that, the hosting nation Qatar, represented by the SC, is moving ahead with a grand strategy that aims to create a “lasting legacy for Qatar, the Middle East, Asia and the world”. It is a humane mission. In other words, Qatar deeply believes in the genuine power, importance and value of sport in the rapprochement between nations.
Against this background and the wrapping up of the last phase of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, large-scale preparations for the next edition of the tournament are underway in Qatar. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy promises to deliver a wonderful tournament that would leave a lasting and fruitful legacy.
It is a firm belief in Qatar’s policy towards life that sport is a key tool for humanity to enjoy good health and a means to pursue a purposeful life. It is the value that His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani stressed back in March 2015 when he said: “We are focusing a lot on sports as a policy in Qatar. We like sport. I personally think that it is good education for mind and body of our youth. We’ve been hosting big events for many years and we have a national sports day in Qatar; a holiday that everybody participates, including myself.”
Hopefully, Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup will be a platform for cultural understanding and will bring with it what is good for the Middle East. The hope is also that the tournament will be Arabs’ welcoming gesture to the world.
As His Highness the Amir has been saying since 2010, the Qatar World Cup is all Arabs’ tournament to the world. Our region deserves a better and stable situation than the current one. The Arab nation is a great nation that is capable of overcoming all the disputes; and the FIFA tournament will be a perfect occasion for realising that ideal.
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