“I prefer cricket”, will the fervor of the World Cup win Doha?

From our Special Envoy in Doha,

We already know that the World Cup 2022 will not be that of ecology. The smog of Doha and the big American pick-ups that occupy the wide local roads are not there to deny it. We have also known for a long time that the World Cup in Qatar will not be that of workers’ rights. Having seen exhausted workers spray themselves with water during their lunch break under a dodger that not many people dare to face in broad daylight, will not make us say the opposite.

This World Cup of scandals – from our Western point of view, because the Arab world, India and Latin America are eagerly awaiting it – is at least that of hospitality without limits. From the taxi to the hotel, our luggage passes from the hands of the driver to that of the staff of the establishment, without ever touching ours (we should above all not break our porcelain arms). The initial scene of our journey is symbolic of an omnipresence. In the Doha metro, there is always someone to tell you where to go, where to exit, where to return.

In short, this World Cup will be that of things and others. But can it be that of the right atmosphere? After all, it’s a promise from Gianni Infantino : “Qatar will offer us the most beautiful World Cup of all time”. An air of flute already played by the boss of Fifa in 2018. We recognize all the same that the emirate has given itself the means of its ambitions by investing 220 billion euros to host the competition.

The advantage of the “unlimited money” cheat-code sponsored by hydrocarbons is that the question of infrastructure does not pose much of a concern. With its beautiful, clean metro, its thousand and one flags on the Corniche of Doha, its music and its pyrotechnics, Qatar has unsurprisingly bet everything on order and bling-bling. Special mention for the giga place dedicated to the FIFA Fan Festival, whose final preparations agitate the surroundings of the Al-Bidda park.

Footy folklore is struggling to settle

The artificial has its limits. The entertainment attracts and arouses the curiosity of Qataris and immigrants after dark, but they do not seem to carry the culture of supporterism in their blood. The footpaths are sparsely populated and fan gatherings as rare as water in the nearby desert.

The senses are little used: no drums, smell of frying, and even less smoke. “You know, Qatar and the big atmosphere are not really compatible”, smiles Camille, a young teacher who has been expatriated for a year. Even some volunteers, like Zair, a young Afghan who runs an official knick-knacks shop on the Corniche, aren’t necessarily very footballers. “I am very happy to be here. But my thing is more cricket. So cliché.

Tunisians, Moroccans and Indians in force

We must therefore rely on others, to begin with by the indians, who came en masse – or already employed on site – to support England, Argentina, France, Brazil and Portugal. Suspected of having been paid by the host country, some of them complained about these “degrading” conclusions. The CEO of the World, Nasser Al Khater, denounced the accusations “unfounded”.

On the other hand, no possible doubt about the Tunisian and Moroccan fans, the only ones to raise the decibels more or less properly in the surroundings. But still too sparsely to be able to speak of fervor. The hope of seeing the show go up a notch isn’t quite dead. But the cursor is somewhere between indulgence towards the organizer of a party that only ever starts on D-Day, and the worry of seeing usual protagonists being desired in Qatar.

South Americans, who kept us in suspense before the start of the high mass in Russia, are for the moment few in number. Argentinians and Mexicans will come in large numbers – they are among the biggest ticket holders for this World Cup – but not continuously. Some of them will be found in neighboring countries, and it will therefore be necessary to wait until match days to take advantage of their talents as hall drivers.

Tunisian supporters in Doha
Tunisian fans in Doha – William Pereira / 20 Minutes

At worst, there will remain safaris in the desert, on the back of camels or in a 4×4, to deceive. And the sound systems of boats moored in the bay, never far away to break the ambient calm. There will also be concerts by the Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, and Maroon 5. A little musical snag all the same: Dua Lipa refused to sing during the opening ceremony. Like what, money does not buy everything. Well almost.

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