Every major national achievement is a sum total of significant smaller milestones, some of which might not even seem obvious. They happen almost daily, as we go about our normal lives, gradually growing on us and ultimately leaving us with the proud realisation that we are up to something really big.
The 2022 World Cup is one such project. It has been in the works for eight years now, ever since that historic evening of December 2, 2010 when then FIFA President Sepp Blatter picked up Qatar’s name from among a host of hopeful bidders.
Qatar’s stunning success expectedly shockwaves across the sporting world, especially through the game’s traditional bastions. For some, it was hard to stomach, triggering off a maelstrom of conspiracy theories based on presumptions, hate, fear and most importantly, bias all of which, needless to say, quickly came unstuck.
So here we are today, on November 21, 2018, fully confident and bursting with restless energy. Exactly four years before the World Cup kicks off, Qatar’s clarity of vision and its overwhelming desire to leave a stamp on history are there for all to see.
Mere words cannot explain the significance of the first-ever World Cup in the Middle East. It has to be experienced and imbibed, the whole process leading to it understood and appreciated.
A man no less than FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who took over from Blatter, realises that the event’s scope transcends the boundaries of sport, chiefly because it has massive potential to break down cultural stereotypes and bring people together through football.
“I think this World Cup is extremely important, not only for Qatar but for the whole region – a region that has a passion for football and is investing a lot in the game,” said Infantino as the four-year countdown to the tournament got under way today.
“This World Cup is a unique opportunity – a chance to show the world what this region can offer; for football, but also for anybody in the world to come and visit a beautiful place, learn about a new culture and meet new people. In this world, especially in the current climate, it is very much needed that we open our doors and discover new places.”
The recent World Cup in Russia set a high benchmark, said Infantino, who is expecting fans to receive a warm welcome in Qatar in 2022 as well.
“There are many lessons we can learn from Russia,” said Infantino. “The first one is how to welcome so many people – 1.5 million people came to Russia to enjoy the World Cup and they were all welcomed in a way that was unexpected to many.
“There were many fears about Russia, but it turned out to be a very safe World Cup, a very welcoming World Cup, in a country that made fans feel good. The whole population contributed to that and I’m sure the same will happen here in Qatar.”
According to him the Russian World Cup was the best so far but Qatar has the potential to go even better.
“The Russian World Cup was the best ever, and the World Cup in 2022 has to be even better,” he said, exuding total confidence in Qatar’s abilities.
Supreme Committee Secretary-General HE Hassan al-Thawadi, who has been at the forefront of the project right from the bidding stage, is also upbeat as ever.
“In four years’ time, 1.5 million fans will descend on Qatar from every corner of the globe and billions more will tune in on their TVs, smartphones and tablets to watch 28 days of football,” he said.
“It’ll be a momentous occasion for the teams participating, the fans watching, and for the whole Arab world, which is eagerly anticipating hosting the showpiece event of the most popular sport in the world for the first time ever.”
He again emphasised football’s potential to promote peace and understanding among people.
“Football, more than any other sport, has the power to build bridges of understanding between people and cultures,” said al-Thawadi.
“With key tournament and national infrastructure projects on-schedule and each of our legacy initiatives proving a catalyst for positive change both locally and abroad, we are delivering on our promise of hosting a unique and transformational FIFA World Cup for Qatar, the region and the world.”
Earlier, al-Thawadi had spoken about the importance of financial responsibility, keeping in mind the changing economic scenarios and other unexpected developments – such as the Saudi Arabia-engineered Gulf crisis.
“We were clear about our budget and determined not to exceed it. We were conscious of that (changing economic scenarios). We were less focused on grandeur and more on the efficient delivery of what we had promised and therefore we feel very comfortable with our budget,” al-Thawadi said in 2015 to mark five years of Qatar winning the bid.
“We used the time to build the foundations for the World Cup. The next five years we would be working to enhance those foundations day by day.”
Three years after he said that, those foundations are there for all to see. Construction work is in full swing. Of the eight stadiums, one is ready, two will be ready in a matter of months and the rest are in various stages of development. Qatar had promised to deliver all stadiums two years ahead of the event but chances are they would be up and ready even before that.
Led by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar has only emerged stronger throughout its World Cup journey, particularly so after the illegal and immoral blockade began in early June last year.
“Our vision, our legacy continues to develop. The World Cup will go down in history as an outstanding one,” al-Thawadi has said often.
Is there still a doubter around?
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