Monday, December 6, 2010

Can conservative Qatar host the World Cup ?

So FIFA backed the Russians and the Arabs in their bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups rather than the British and the Americans. It sounds like something the UN would do. As everyone knows I love International Football and particularly the World Cup. Truthfully, I didn't really want the British to get the 2018 tournament because I associate the World Cup with exotic, exciting and interesting travel. I certainly got this in Japan/South Korea (2002) and Germany (2006). I don't think I would have been able to get too excited about journeying to Manchester or Liverpool for the World Cup. No disrespect to those cities. They're just too close for me. I wish the Russians all the best and hope I get to go to cheer on Ireland in what should be a super tournament, even though I do sympathise with the British since FIFA President Sepp Blater and Russian Prime Minister Vladamir Putin (pictured) are as dodgy as you can get, which naturally casts doubt over the legitimacy of the decision process.

The three Amigos went to Zurich to promote England's unsuccessful bid.

What really shocked me was Qatar beating the US. Frankly I think there may have been some anti Americanism involved even though I do accept that FIFA officials do appear to want to spread it around the globe these days. But I am quite convinced that many in the football elite (I'm not sure what I mean by that but you know where I'm coming from) do not want America to thrive at soccer. I honestly think there is a perception that, well, America is better than Europe at most things, here is something that we (the rest of the world) are clearly better at, so lets keep it that way and not give the Americans a chance to catch up. Maybe I am getting carried away but to award the tournament to a nation of 1 million people with few stadiums, ahead of the US with all its spectacular facilities, seems a bit odd to me.

Conservative Qatar
Like most people, the first thing that entered my mind when I heard Qatar 2022 was, its too hot, and you can't even drink in the place. I have since been reassured that they will have air conditioned stadiums (my God !) and giant fans zone where drinking and carrying on will be permitted. We will see. All I know is this, in the two years (2005-06) I spent living and working in the Gulf, the only negative experience I had, in terms of the concerns one might have about living in a conservative Muslim country, was in Doha Qatar. It involved what I believe was the first ever Gaelic Football match to be held in the country. I was playing for the Dubai Celts against Qatar GAA club. The match which incidentally was the greatest sporting event I ever participated in occurred amongst much fan fare. Probably every Irish expat living in Qatar was there. Many other nationalities showed up too. There was probably 1000 people watching including the local media. Anyway, we lost. But that night we had one hell of a night in the local rugby club where the match took place.

At about 3am when it was time to return to our hotels, the staff began to round us up. They shepherded us toward the exits but strangely would not allow us to leave. Soon after I noticed that there was a police presence. This unsettled some of the lads who seemed to think that there might be some guys after us. Things really got uncomfortable when we were brought into a building, at the entry point to the stadium and kept there by the police. Some of the lads in their drunken states were not handling this well at all. I too was concerned. I just didn't know what was going on. Forty five minutes later we were still there. We couldn't get an answer from the police who had no English. However, it eventually became clear why this was happening. It was time to go home, and the police wanted to supervise our departure for fear that drunken revelling might occur. Once enough taxis arrived, the police simply escorted us in two's from the building, to the taxi rank, a distance of about ten meters. I can't help wonder, if this is how they handled 40 drunken Irish boys, they better have a superior plan for five million thirsty soccer fans.

This incident brought something home to me. Muslim societies are terrified of disharmony as they believe it negatively reflects the wider population. In this case they were afraid that we might cause a ruckess in the taxi rank. I was told subsequently, that the idea to provide a police escort would actually have come from those who want Qatar to open up. Such people were worried that if the event had got bad press, ie reports of irate GAA fans, urinating on the street, singing loudly and getting involved in punch ups (as if we would), then this would have empowered the more conservative Qataris that say, if you allow drinking in the emirate, then next, it will be teenage pregnancies, drugs, crime and the gradual decent into the decadence so visible in the west. This essentially where the clash of civilisations occurs.


Anonymous said...

Great story, I would have found myself extremely worried in the same situation. I think UK and US would have put on a better show, but it would have been the kinda show we all would have been used to. This will be something different. A couple of points on the successful Qatar bid. One: Its 50 degrees celcius over there during world cup season. So with aircon, the stadia and fan zones will be at a more comfortable 20 degrees. The genius part of this is that (A) the aircon units will be solar powered, thus ensuring a carbon neutral footprint, and (B) they will be built and installed by an Irish company! Two, apparently in seems, that the multiple stadia that will have to be built for the event, are being designed in such a way that they will be easily dismantled. The reason for this is that they plan to ship the stadia off to developing countries, once the world cup has ended. Sounds fair enough to me. eoghan.

Anonymous said...

And your poor mother thought you were tucked up in bed.