Sun. Nov 20th, 2022

Football Football – Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup Preview – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar – 19 November 2022 Qatar General view from outside Al Bayt stadium ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup REUTERS/John Sibley

DOHA—The World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Sunday with a high-risk event for the small nation that has faced a barrage of criticism and has dedicated its reputation to delivering a smooth tournament, the first ever held in the Middle East and the most expensive in history. .

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the presidents of Egypt and Algeria will be among the political leaders at the opening ceremony to be held in a tent-shaped stadium at 1440 GMT, ahead of the first match between host Qatar and Ecuador. The UN secretary general is also located in Doha.

The tournament marks the culmination of Qatar’s soft power move on the global stage and a show of strength after coming out of the 3-1/2-year boycott of its three Arab allies, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, that ended in 2021. See the first direct flights from Israel to Qatar for the World Cup.

On stage, South Korean singer Jungkook from K-pop boy band BTS will be performing a new official tournament song called Dreamers, along with Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi.

Qatar and FIFA are hoping that attention will move on the ground after facing growing criticism over foreign workers’ rights, LGBT rights and social restrictions. Organizers denied bribery claims for hosting rights.

Denmark and Germany’s team captains said their teams will wear One Love armbands as they prepare to compete in a conservative Muslim state where same-sex relationships are illegal.

Alcohol is banned in stadiums. While the organizers warn against public displays of affection, they say everyone is welcome.

Enthusiastic fan bases are in Doha, but the real influx is expected this weekend. On arrival, Argentine fan Julio Cesar from Buenos Aires said he expected a great atmosphere. “Even if we don’t have beer before the game.”

At the launch of the FIFA Fan Festival in central Doha on Saturday, hundreds of all-male workers gathered at the sports arena in an industrial area on the outskirts of the city, where alcohol is not served, as some visitors enjoy their first sip of beer. They can watch the matches there.

“Of course I didn’t buy a ticket. They’re expensive, and I should use that money for other things – like sending it home to my family, Ghanaian national Kasım, who has worked in Qatar for four years, told Reuters.

Kenyan Neville, 24, and his compatriot Willy, also 24, and a Manchester City fan were hired as security guards for the event. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Neville said.

Rich gas producer Qatar is the smallest country to host football’s biggest global event, held at a cost of $220 billion. Crowd control will be key as approximately 1.2 million visitors, over a third of Qatar’s population, are expected.

Many workers who worked to prepare the infrastructure of the tournament will watch the match from the side by getting paid from the stands. Doha has been criticized for its treatment of migrant workers, but points to labor reforms against exploitation.

Workers were putting the finishing touches on open-air gardens and sidewalks on Saturday, and carrying construction materials near the National Museum as visitors strolled.

With a limited number of hotels in Qatar, fans will also fly on daily shuttle flights from cities like Dubai, as Qatar shares the economic boon of the World Cup with its neighbors.

In Doha, England fan Neil Gahan played football with his son next to the portacabins where the fans were sheltering. He said the cabins were “not perfect,” but there were sports facilities and huge screens nearby. “Yeah, I think everything will be fine.”

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