12.11.2022 Author: Vladimir Danilov

Qatar in 2022 World Cup pre-start excitement

With little time left before the World Cup in Qatar kicks off on November 21, the excitement for organizers and participants is growing by the day.

Some 1.2 million fans are expected to travel to the emirate from all over the world, exceeding Doha’s current hotel capacity by more than 30,000 rooms. There is a wide range of accommodation options for guests to choose from, including prefabricated cabins on the outskirts of the city, a 1,800-bed fan village on Ketayfan Island, and several residential complexes.  In order to get an extra thousand hotel rooms for fans, the organizers of the 2022 World Cup have already chartered a third cruise ship to moor as a floating hotel. The cost of a hotel room in Doha during the games starts at $550 per night.

Unfortunately, preparations for the international sports tournament are accompanied by an unprecedented wave of various scandals, which are gaining momentum with each passing day.

The National News reported that Jordan’s security forces terminated their contract with Qatari authorities due to poor living conditions and recalled some 5,000 personnel from the emirate who were to be deployed to provide security for the 2022 World Cup.

Over the past 12 years, the rights of migrant workers, who were actively involved in the construction of the stadiums and other facilities, have been the most discussed topic in the preparations for the 2022 World Cup. Intensified discussion about the deaths and injuries allegedly sustained primarily by people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines during the works has been repeatedly raised by Western media and human rights organizations, with calls thrown in for FIFA to punish Qatar with fines, compensation for victims or even disqualification of the country from hosting the World Cup. Western-controlled NGO Amnesty International, in its statements on the matter, claims there were allegedly more than 1,000 casualties during the construction work, while Qatari official authorities confirm only three deaths.

Another sensitive topic for Qatar was the composition of the participants. Of particular note is the blatantly political demarche by FIFA under Western pressure to suspend the Russian national team from all tournaments under its aegis after Moscow launched the special operation to denazify the neo-Nazi Kiev regime on February 24. The Tunisian national team also came under attack, though mainly for purely internal reasons: a conflict between Tunisian Football Federation President Wadie Jary and the country’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Kamel Deguiche, who is accused of interfering in the federation’s affairs, which contravenes FIFA’s statutes.

To prevent the country from being stripped of its World Cup hosting status, Qatar has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on surveillance of FIFA officials, according to Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen. These actions were taken by the Qatari authorities amid a growing wave of deliberate discrediting of Qatar and the disruption of its hosting by forces hostile to the emirate. Thus, not only human rights organizations, football associations participating in the competition, but even the governments of individual countries participating in the 2022 World Cup have recently become increasingly vocal about human rights abuses in the emirate, not just about football, and eager to spread blatant disinformation. For example, according to media reports, one of the Danish national team kits will allegedly be entirely black, symbolizing the attitude towards the country not respecting “Western democratic values.” Representatives of a number of European governments have already announced their refusal to travel to Qatar and support their players.

Due to a large number of accusations and various political provocations, demarches, mainly by Western countries, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was forced to give a big TV interview on October 25. He criticized the defamation and deliberate denigration of both the country and its football festival that has hit Qatar since the emirate won the bid to host the World Cup.

Following accusations of Qatar’s alleged brutality against construction workers, the topic of “inhumane treatment of gay people” in Qatar has become another top story in the information campaign unleashed against the emirate. Although the organizers of the 2022 World Cup have repeatedly stated that all fans, regardless of their sexual orientation or background, are welcome, criticism and provocations on this topic continue unabated. On October 25, Peter Gary Tatchell, an LGBT activist from the UK, personally picketed the National Museum of Qatar in Doha with a banner about the alleged ill-treatment of homosexuals in the country. Despite the police arriving an hour later and only confiscating Tatchell’s banner and checking his ID, before leaving him standing on the pavement, the Western media have issued blatant disinformation accusations against the Qatari authorities for the alleged reprisals suffered by Tatchell.

England national team manager Gareth Southgate recently spoke to La Repubblica about the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He stressed in particular that it would not be like the World Cup in the West, but that all visitors to Qatar should respect a country with a culture, religion and tradition different from the West. The British Foreign Secretary also issued a statement to LGBT representatives among British football fans and asked them not to provoke Muslims at the 2022 World Cup.

On October 27, German Minister of Interior Nancy Faeser also got involved in disinformation campaigns against Qatar, lashing out at the organizers of the 2022 World Cup and the human rights situation in the emirate.  In particular, she said that the German government believes that awarding major sports tournaments should be linked to respect for human rights and sustainable development, and that “it would be better if tournaments were not awarded to such states.” In response, Doha and its neighbors called on Berlin not to interfere in their internal affairs. The Qatari Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Nancy Faeser’s remarks were unacceptable and provocative to the people of Qatar, and it was unacceptable for politicians to try to score points for their domestic use at the expense of relations with other countries.

Blatantly playing along with Washington’s provocative actions, Ambassador Paolo Zampolli of the Dominica Permanent Mission to the UN called on Gianni Infantino, the FIFA President, to exclude the Iranian national team from the World Cup in Qatar and replace it with the Italian team. Soon after, with similar declarations, and clearly in payment for Washington’s support in opposing Russian special operation in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Association of Football made a similar demand for the suspension of the Iranian national team from the 2022 World Cup. This further confirmed the existence of a clear focal point for the West’s provocations at the 2022 World Cup.

Against this backdrop, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, ahead of the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, was forced to appeal to national team representatives to focus on football rather than politics. “We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world,” Infantino was quoted as saying by Sky Sports. The FIFA President also asked for football to be spared from political or ideological disputes during the 2022 World Cup.

Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said on October 25 that hosting the World Cup was “a great test for a country the size of Qatar” after opponents of the emirate unleashed unprecedented slanderous criticism, turning the football competition from everyone’s favorite game into an arena for all kinds of political activism.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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