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On the 2022 World Cup: ’92 training sites’ 22, April 2014

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qatari world cup

At long last an article on Qatar’s World Cup adventure makes the salient point.

In addition to the stadiums, 92 training sites will be constructed, Al Kuwari said.

This is the key issue with the Qatar 2022 World Cup as far as environmental issues are concerned. Yes, building x amount of stadiums that will potentially be air conditioned is not a particularly ‘green’ thing to do. But each team needs at least two practice pitches, which will also have to be air conditioned to a height of 2 meters, if the event will be in the summer. This is where the egregious nature of the environmental impact will be seen.

Otherwise, I would just briefly note that three top-notch Gulf experts that I’ve spoken to recently have argued that they think the World Cup will not be in Qatar; that for some reason it will be taken away. While their thoughts are always valuable, all I would say is that such a decision probably needs to come from a FIFA expert more than a Gulf expert. If FIFA engages in some Blatter-purge or goes through a rigorous anti-corruption process like the International Olympics Committee did after Salt Lake then there could be issues for Qatar.

Another Qatar football debacle 7, February 2013

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Sp Uru

When the World and twice-running European football champions are in town and playing the Copa América Champions, it would be rude not to go along and watch teams stuffed with the world’s best players. As much as I was looking forward to last night’s showpiece there was always a certain cynical reticence expecting the organisation around the event to be a mess.

It has been years since I saw England-Brazil in Doha, which was a disaster of planning including giving every fan in the stadium hard glow sticks to wave around in the dark, which soon became a rain of missiles pelting the front rows (who’d have thought?). Still, since Qatar has won the right to host the 2022 World Cup it must surely have learned how to organise one match by now…

Or not.


There’s not a whole lot the 2022 folks can do about the traffic. But the fact remains that for 5k around the stadium the traffic was a complete disaster with a 15 minute journey to the Aspire complex (stadium area) taking over an hour. I don’t expect a subway system to be installed overnight but how about a park and ride system from key points in Doha? How about traffic police monitoring the road and stopping the hard-shoulder becoming the fast lane? How about advertising a few bus services? How about doing anything whatsoever aside from just ignoring the problem?

Entrance to stadium

‘Take your seats by 20:00’ the ticket said for the 21:00 kick-off. Sound advice but had anyone passed this nugget of information on to anyone working at the stadium? Walking around the stadium more or less each gate had long queues of people trying to get in as early as 19:30 (and doubtless before). My particular queue was a special one at somewhere around 200 metres long. I started queuing before 20:00 and didn’t get into the stadium until around 21:25, 25 minutes after kick-off and after the first goal.

I simply cannot fathom how they messed this up so badly leaving thousands of fans outside in interminably slow queues to miss the kickoff. You have x amounts of tickets sold and x amounts of seats (let’s leave the 2011 Asian Cup final debacle to one side for the moment) and the staff presumably know kick-off time. From there it is surely a fairly straight-forward formula?

I just can’t understand why all the major leagues in the world can manage this process on a weekly basis – checking tickets, checking security, etc – often for much larger crowds and yet Qatari authorities can’t manage this once every year.

Do they not realise they can’t actually organise a football match effectively yet? Surely they have an inkling in which case why not get Man Utd or Bayern Munich to show them how it is done – the teams are here often enough, get the ground staff too.

Adding to the rancour in the long-suffering queues was the usual issue of people pushing in left, right and centre with Qatar staff replete with red glowing batons standing around, having a chat doing – precisely literally – nothing.

By the time we got to the gate they weren’t even checking tickets and were just waving people in: lessons not learnt, it seems.


I arrived looking for a quick bite to eat before getting into the stadium; how foolish of me not to factor in the necessary waiting time (half an hour or more at a guess; I didn’t bother).

The trestle tables setup for the drinks were exactly like I remember from my school sports day complete with paper tickets for ‘water’, ‘drink’ and so on; a system they had abandoned. The people serving had no system (I serve, you do cash, etc) but it was just a free-for-all and – obviously – the person I dealt with couldn’t add up, stuffing the wrong amount of money into a torn cardboard box as the cash register.

Again, I just can’t understand the utter amateurism of this whole affair. Why not get a proper catering company in to do the job? Why not think a bit differently and have shawarma and karak stands dotted around instead of a couple inside the tents? I could have organised that myself in half an hour.

I am sure some things went right. They paid $4m to get Spain; well done. But I was far from alone in being utterly demoralised by this farce. I simply have no comprehension as to why Qatar continually spurns these opportunities to show that it can run a successful and largely trouble-free football match. Doubtless these things will be sorted by 2022 – though I said exactly the same thing two years ago – for at some stage someone will get around to experiencing a match in Qatar as a normal fan and not a VVIP…


Incidentally, I can’t describe the contempt that I have for the Goebbels-esque reporting from an Al Jazeera correspondent gushing at the organisation; what a shamefully bad snippet of journalism.

If Qatar loses the World Cup 30, May 2011

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Signs are looking ominous for Qatar and their desire to host the 2022 World Cup. To strip them of this would be a major source of embarrassment for FIFA and, obviously, Qatar. It could only happen in an extreme set of circumstances, which we may be approaching now. Blatter, who by now should be utterly desperate and in severe fear for his position if there is any justice in the world, may use robbing Qatar of their right to host the WC as a kind of diversion, I fear: desperate times (for Blatter) may call for desperate measures.

So, were the unthinkable to happen what should Qatar do?

I would heartily advise the Qatari elite to take the high road. Eschew the grubby practices of litigation and libel courts which would surely be one possible recourse. Instead, in a dignified manner, say that they profoundly reject any and all suggestions of impropriety and that FIFA is clearly in desperate need of wholesale changes, just as happened to the International Olympic Committee. The elite ought to note that they will continue to improve Qatar’s infrastructure but that, say, the £30billion that would have been spent directly on the stadia etc will now be used to boost the Marshall Plan for the post-revolutionary Arab States. This would be a remarkable gesture for Qatar (given that they are mooting spending $10billion already on this plan) and would draw praise and kudos by the bucket-load.


Qatar ‘may be stripped of World Cup’ 30, May 2011

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Football’s governing body, FIFA, is currently undergoing a painful and acrimonious bout of self-reflection. In the run up to the FIFA Presidential elections the incumbent, Sepp Blatter, was faced by Qatar’s Mohammed Bin Hammam. However, amid an ever widening corruption scandal, Bin Hammam pulled out of the race leaving Blatter unopposed.

Now Blatter is warning that a re-run of the voting for the 2022 World Cup is possible. Thus far it is impossible to say whether a re-run is likely. For sure, many people in the world of football were not amused that the World Cup went to Qatar, a small country with a tiny population, with scorching summers, with no history of football and whose bid comprehensively outspent all others by a significant degree. Thus far there are plenty of accusations of impropriety and corruption, but none have been proven yet. If any are linked directly to Qatar’s successful bid then a re-draw is certainly on the cards.

Being stripped of the World Cup would be catastrophically embarrassing for Qatar and only marginally less so for FIFA. Also that notion that Blatter were to oversee such a re-run having not being indicted in any way, shape or form is absurd too and will – rightly – leave the Qataris feeling wholly and profoundly bitter.


FIFA have called an emergency press conference for tonight though no-one is sure what it’s about…

Qatar ‘not to benefit’ from 2022 World Cup 18, May 2011

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Citigroup’s chief economist has posited that Qatar will not see any (net) economic benefit from hosting the 2022 World Cup. While this would hardly make Qatar unique, this will not come as happy reading to Qataris concerned about their inheritance being squandered on the mother of all prestige projects.

The Bloomberg article carrying this story focuses on the issue of hotel rooms. Currently, Qatar has around 60% occupancy but has pledged to increase its capacity tenfold. It is perfectly reasonable to ask, therefore, who will be staying in all these rooms after the World Cup. Sure, tourism will pick up somewhat after – inshallah – hosting a successful tournament, but 90,000 rooms? I don’t remotely see where that number of people will come from.

It is the same story in the Emirates. The large hotels on Yas Island, aside from the week per year when they are full with F1 fans and officials, generally operate at less than 10% capacity. How this can continue, I just don’t see.

All of this is a part of the voodoo economics that envelopes the Gulf. Supply and demand? Where? I just don’t really see it in the Gulf. Look at all the empty towers dotted around the region and the new soon to be empty towers currently rising beside them. It often far more resembles a Soviet-esque command economy than anything else. Sometimes this can work, at least for a time. Dubai’s ‘build it and they will come’ attitude did well until its spectacular crash; hardly a good harbinger for the region loosely following some of its principles.

Artificial clouds & solar shades: the sensible answer 25, March 2011

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As you know the World Cup in 2022 will be held in Qatar. More specifically, it will be held in the summer in Qatar. One need not be a meteorologist or a veteran of the Gulf to know that this is not the world’s most sensible idea (as FIFA’s own technical report noted).

Still, c’est la vie and all that.

To counter the gross heat two super ideas have surfaced in the past few days: Artificial clouds and a floating solar powered shade. Great ideas. What can possibly go wrong?

But even were I to  – grudgingly – cover up my eternal cynicism for a moment or two, it must be pointed out that these ideas are really rather exceedingly far from remotely solving the problems. Crucially, the oppressive humidity will still be around (if not made worse by extra cloud cover). Back to the drawing board, fellas.

Hat tip: Oli Kay & Doha News

A summer World Cup: decisions, decisions 27, February 2011

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The question of whether Qatar’s 2022 World Cup will be held in the summer of some other time of year continues.

It was, of course, initially planned as a summer event. But soon after Qatar rather astonishingly won the right to host the tournament, there were several quotes emanating from the great and the good at FIFA (Blatter and Platini) stating that the tournament would probably be moved out of Qatar’s baking and, according to their own technical report, “potentially dangerous” summer heat.

These notions were soon quashed by people from Qatar’s organising committee.

Yet now the Emir, Hamad Al Thani, has once again raised the notion that this might change as he will “ask the people [Qataris]” what they want. The saga continues.

Qatar spurns opportunity to allay World Cup fears 3, February 2011

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Japan won a record fourth Asian Cup title in Doha last week with an extra time win against Australia. Unfortunately, for many people this tournament was more about Qatar as a hosting venue than it was about the football in and of itself.

The Asian Cup offered a perfect chance for Qatar to allay the fears of those that had misgivings about the small GCC country being awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup. Unfortunately, this opportunity was wholly missed and some serious errors will fuel concerns about Qatar’s ability to successfully host the 2022 World Cup.

When Qatar hosted England and Brazil in November 2009 as a showcase for ‘what they could do’ in the long run up to the World Cup decision, it was a minor disaster. Entrance to the stadium was a shambolic affair with enormous queues. Plastic glow-sticks were given to every fan to join in a light display at the start of the match. However, within seconds of the start of the display these glow-sticks turned into mini-missiles being hurled towards the pitch, often clattering into those in the front few rows. At the end of the match chronic transportations problems left thousands of fans stranded around the stadium for hours on end  at the mercy of profiteering taxi drivers.

Things in the Asian Cup did not start much better. Most of the earlier matches were largely empty despite very cheap ticket prices and organisers even resorting to giving away free food and drink to entice people. Even in mostly full matches, such as when Qatar played, there was the somewhat unedifying sight of Qataris streaming out of the ground as soon as their team conceded a goal. Hardly an ethos to warm Qatar to hardy football fans around the world.

Yet far more important than these relatively trivial issues was the debacle at the final. Perhaps through fear that there would be empty seats for the most important game in front of Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President, and world-wide press scrutiny, people without tickets were simply allowed into the stadium.

This meant that up to 5000 fans with tickets were not allowed in. Considering that the final was between Japan and Australia, this necessarily meant that fans that had travelled quite literally thousands of miles and no doubt paid a small fortune to get to Doha, stay there (hotels are not cheap in Qatar) and then buy a final ticket were left outside behind fences and riot police.

These fans obviously complained and some were reportedly manhandled by the police. The key concern here, as noted by Al Jazeera, is that if the Qatari riot police cannot cope with ‘polite fans with families’ with the most reasonable of requests, one shudders to think what will happen when confronted by the more typical drunken, boisterous football fans.

While it is undeniable that these are crass, elementary and serious errors one must not forget that they are occurring over a decade before Qatar’s most important tournament begins. To say that there is plenty of time for Qatar to implement new procedures is an understatement. Systems can and will be tried and perfected in the coming years that will, no doubt, mean that 2022 goes off without a procedural hitch.

The only lingering concern is to do with the police: their reaction to a simple and unthreatening situation is concerning. Crucially, the Qatari police are used to a great deal more respect than they will get from rowdy football fans. No doubt there are training plans in place; perhaps a ‘busman’s holiday’ to a Manchester or Glasgow derby would be in order?

More generally, Qatari authorities ought to be annoyed with themselves. The Asian Cup was a golden opportunity to show countries angry after the 2022 vote (England et al) that they can host such a successful tournament. Instead, they will now have to endure months if not years of continual sniping based on ample evidence. Still, looking on the bright side, if and when (inshallah) Qatar hosts a successful 2022 World Cup their gloating will be all the more deserved.

Hat hip: Chicago Charlie



Qatar World Cup to be held in winter 7, January 2011

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Sepp Blatter, the President of football’s world governing body, FIFA, has admitted that the Qatar World Cup in 2022 will probably be held in the winter months.

All previous World Cups in countries as diverse as Mexico, South Africa, Japan and England have been held in the summer. But the weather in Qatar is particularly problematic with temperatures reaching  50C regularly. Indeed, a FIFA technical report commented that the heat would be so intense, despite Qatar’s best efforts to showcase their air-conditioned stadium technology, that it posed a ‘health risk’ to players and fans.

Shifting the world footballing calendar to have a World Cup in the winter will be a logistical nightmare. Though some  European leagues (Germany and Italy) have winter breaks, England, for example, does not. Indeed, there is a grand and long-loved tradition of winter football in the UK, including Boxing Day (26th December) and New Year games. Forcing England to get rid of this tradition will not be appreciated.

Making such a change reinforces the feelings of many that FIFA has consistently [no pun intended] shifted the goalposts on bidding nations. The England bid team feels strongly that had they known that FIFA’s remit for the World Cups was to give them to ‘new’ footballing nations (Russia and Qatar) then they would not have bothered to spend the £10 million on bidding. Similarly, what is the point of a technical bid if it is simply going to be ignored? Qatar and Russia undoubtedly faired worst in their respective groups in these reports yet both won.

The underlying feeling (certainly not just in England) that the World Cup was decided upon a long time before the actual voting and not necessarily for strict footballing reasons is amplified by this whole-sale change to the timings of Qatar’s World Cup.

How Qatar won the World Cup 2022 3, December 2010

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Clearly money paid a large role. There is no denying that the two bids with the most financial backing and the worst technical reports won and that their liquidity played, in my view, a large part in this. But this is the way that it goes. They have nothing to apologise for; they simply did what they did better than the other nominees. Yes, it’s hardly an Athenian spirit of fair play, but that is the way that FIFA have set it up.


Qatar is a new, rich and tiny country: a ‘pimple’ on Saudi Arabia as one recent article disparagingly described it. The vast majority of the population are ex-pats of one stripe or another who do the vast majority of the work (obviously enough). Add these facts together with a bit of semi-racial profiling and people simply assumed that the Qatari delegates would set about their work smoking shisha, eating hummus, listening to Fayrouz and walking around with a sack of cash, dolling it out.

However, the new generation of Qataris as exemplified by the bid’s director, are well educated, erudite, intelligent, savvy and successful. The fact that Qatar nearly won in the very first round of voting is a truly staggering testament to the success of their pre-vote diplomacy. Yes, of course, having deep pockets allowed grander promises to be made, but I think that it will have needed far more than that. For example, securing the sole rights to pitch their bid at the Confederations of African Football last year – locking out all other bidders – appears to have been something of a master-stroke.

Not only this but instead of England’s notion of setting up a fund which would be spent on the world’s developing countries football infrastructure, Qatar had whole stadiums to give away: many of their stadiums are modular.

The Middle East

Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President, is – as we say in the UK – no shrinking violet. He adores the lime-light and equally adores the massive amounts of power that his job offers him.

I honestly think that one of the key factors that won Qatar the World Cup is the notion that it could – no, really – bring ‘peace to the Middle East’. However absurd the notion, however much this ignores manifest facts on the ground, however much Qatar winning the world cup would have been celebrated through gritted teeth throughout the region (i.e. intra-Arab rivalry) I believe that Sepp believes that there is a chance that this could be a catalyst for peace. Perhaps he is right?

One thing I will say is that having a date set over a decade into the future might allow negotiations to pick a point in time; a backdrop.

And Sepp, I think, can see himself going to Stockholm, collecting his Nobel peace prize and dedicating it to the power of football. Sepp is stepping down soon, he wants a legacy and Qatar’s bid with this associated ‘perk’ by some distance offers the greatest possible opportunity for fame and, essentially, immortality.


Russia winning the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 clearly shows that FIFA are adamant that the World Cup must seek out new areas of the world. The Middle East offers a modest population that already has a keen interest in football, some of whom are exceedingly rich. Moreover, Qatar has exceedingly strong links to the Indian sub-continent and, of course, to the Muslim world at large: this, perhaps, is the key (1 billion+) demographic that FIFA is aiming at.

The bid, stadiums, presentation?

Overall, I think that the presentation in Zürich made no difference whatsoever. England gave what was universally agreed to be the best presentation (including the Prime Minister, the future King and the world’s most famous footballer) and had arguably the best technical report, yet did not make it past the first round. Clearly, by the time of the presentations, all votes had already been decided.

So while Qatar’s presentation was excellent too and their stadiums are stunning, I do not really believe that these contributed significantly.