2022 FIFA World Cup turned into a ‘political battle’ against Qatar
In an opinion piece in Qatar Tribune, Ahmad Ali, General Manager of Al Watan and Qatar Tribune newspapers, asks why the western world has turned against Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The opinion piece has been reproduced in full.
Why is Qatar keen to host the biggest sporting events at the global level, or the most celebrated international gatherings?
I put this probing question, like thousands of Qataris and other interested observers, in the presence of President of Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, as the countdown begins for the 21st annual meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), to be hosted in Doha on November 15-16.
ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad, along with more than 1,000 leading international sports figures representing 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and international federations of sports, led by the German, Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), are scheduled to participate in the ANOC meeting. These dignitaries, the global sport leaders and all other guests to the meet are most welcome in Qatar.
Perhaps, some can raise questions about the positive returns or benefits to our country from hosting such sporting events?
My answer to those raising such awkward questions is although they have every right to put these posers simply this: A global event like the ANOC meeting provides an opportunity to the participants to closely follow up the preparations made by Qatar to host the World Cup 2022.
They can see first-hand the progress of construction and logistics works for the global sporting gala. As the host, Qatar stands to gain immensely in its global stature. While the World Cup 2022 will help shine light on the rich Qatari civilization, it will also showcase the country's ability to successfully organise the biggest global events.
The hosting of this 'international sports summit,' whose participation rate is no less than the United Nations meetings, reflects the international respect and global recognition our country enjoys.
It also shows the global interest and appreciation of our efforts to promote the sport, and our role in building bridges of communication between athletes across the world, especially after the unsubstantiated allegations and vicious campaigns targeting us for hosting the World Cup 2022.
It wouldn't be tantamount to revealing a secret if I say that ever since we were awarded the right to host the World Cup 2022, a barrage of criticism has been directed at us, and voluble claims and I am not saying "controversy" have persisted, especially from countries that have enjoyed historical, political and sporting influence in the international arena.
After all, it was England that invented football and formulated its rules and laws so could this be the reason behind its supreme arrogance? Or, the United States which lost to us. And France, which is pressing through its newspapers and lobbies on this issue.
But we do realise the importance of a strong sporting culture and its ability to push the Qatari society forward and also bringing about huge benefits to GCC countries and the region through sport.
That's why we have been keen to host the meeting of ANOC, which is deemed to be one of the pillars of the international sports movement. The last ANOC meeting was held in the US capital Washington last year, with the participation of global sport leaders.
ANOC is a world body that brings together national Olympic committees under its umbrella. Its headquarters, located in the Swiss city of Lausanne, was founded in 1979. The number of ANOC members was raised from 144 to 206 as it seeks to achieve integration between sports bodies and contribute to the development of global sports.
As part of our quest for 'sports development', we were keen to host the World Cup 2022, but there have been attempts by some western parties to detract us as they focus on finding human rights obstacles, climate constraints and other groundless accusations. The baseless accusations reached its peak when they called us a country practicing "modern slavery".
These accusations by Western parties with mala fide motives have even reached the 'European Parliament,' which called for reconsidering the issue of Qatar hosting the World Cup 2022. If anything, this only reflects the extent to which politics dominates sports!
Since the politics-sports equation is difficult to deal with or work out, David Cameron, the former prime minister of the UK has left all important files placed on his desk located at 10 Downing Street, and made negative remarks, which reflects the extent to which the British have gone on this issue.
While nobody can deny the role of politics in sports, the campaign has turned into a political battle against Qatar, giving a go-by to all sports ethics.
Moving in to tarnish our image via the World Cup, many have tried to sound alarm bells over the 'workers issue' and other so-called issues, in a desperate attempt to settle scores with our country.
And I have every right to be surprised by the "unethical" media attacks led and driven by the British against Qatar and their determined attempts to spoil the World Cup 2022 by leveling false allegations, even while the football association in England suffers from endemic corruption!
Perhaps, the termination of their national team coach Sam Allardyce barely weeks after his appointment as a coach of the 'Three Lions' team, is the biggest proof that their sports body could be the most corrupt in the world.
After all, their sports body has been embroiled in a series of scandals, especially after the disclosure of their coach allegedly exploiting his position to circumvent the rules governing the transfer of players by reportedly negotiating a bribe of £400,000.
Also, corruption cases have been unearthed recently related to the World Cup 2006 in Germany and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, after German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel revealed that the organising committee for the 2006 World Cup in Germany paid €6.7m to buy votes.
There is no doubt that it's difficult for the overbearing racist Western mentality to accept the fact that a small GCC Muslim country, which is considered the smallest in size and population in the Middle East, is hosting the largest global sporting event after the 'Olympics'.
And the pressure from these racist quarters comes in various forms, types, sources, contents, implications, directions and trends. I do not rule out the possibility that they may even demand a ban on wearing of 'Ghutra', the scarves that Qatari men wear, and 'Iqal', a doubled black cord that is used to secure the 'Ghutra' in place, during the World Cup!
Or, that they may go on to demand in the UK Parliament a ban on Qatari Kashkha, the Islamic women clothing, during the World Cup!
As for the hue and cry raised over the workers' rights, this issue has been settled in accordance with the highest human rights standards. Here, I can assure and I am not just arguing for the sake of argument that anyone working as a family driver in Qatar lives a better life than any truck driver in the United States or Britain.
Here in Qatar, all items of their daily needs are provided to the drivers, including even the Karak Chai (a warm drink made with black tea, milk, sugar and spices)!
Quite frankly, the living conditions for foreign workers in Qatar has become much better, and after the legislation supporting workers' rights, we may now need a 'sponsor' to guarantee us our rights in our country!
There is no doubt that these 'external pressure' groups will raise the pitch of their criticism as the World Cup approaches as it happened with each country hosting the World Cup, so no need to worry about it.
In 2010, South Africa was termed an "unsafe country" and in 2014 Brazil was lambasted for its "high crime rates". Therefore, will it be surprising if someone wrote about the high rates of use of 'Land Cruisers' by citizens and residents in Qatar?
As a matter of pride, despite the criticism in the Western media, especially the English media, Qatar has responded to its critics by having the honour of hosting one of the top world events.
Qatar is preparing to host the World Championships in Athletics in 2019, after its successful hosting of the World Men's Handball Championship last year, and the World Boxing Championships, the UCI Road World Championships, and the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup in which the participation saw a record 46 delegations and 462 participants.
What's more, all these world championships were successfully hosted in a short period, which confirms that our capital indeed deserves the title of 'sports capital of the Middle East', not to mention Doha being one of the most important capitals organising global sporting event.
All of this only confirms the international community's trust and appreciation of Qatar as one of the best in the world in hosting such a big-ticket event. This comes at a time when the international sporting arena is witnessing intense competition among the cities seeking to host the 2024 Olympics. The IOC is scheduled to select the winning city through a voting during its meeting in Lima, the capital of Peru.
The ANOC meeting, which will be held in Doha, may provide an opportunity to the competitors for promotional propaganda.
With its full power, Los Angeles is aiming once again to host the Olympics to become the second city after London to win this event three times, as it has already hosted the top global event in 1932 and 1984.
I remember when as a sports reporter I had gone there to cover the participation of our Qatari teams, including our national football team, when HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani was assuming the presidency of the Qatari Olympic Committee (QOC).
The door to host the Summer Olympics seems to be open for Los Angeles after Rome suddenly withdrew from the race. Now the competition has zeroed in between the French capital Paris, the Hungarian counterpart Budapest, and Los Angeles, which has announced the addition of three new stadiums.
Away from the Olympics, it's a matter of great pride for us that 2022 World Cup has led an unprecedented infrastructure/architecture development in the region worth billions of dollars.
This has turned our country into a 'workshop' to accomplish 'tournament projects' and install vital facilities, which include the prestigious Rail Project which would make distances shorter through the day and night.
Since sport is an integral part and a pillar of our National Vision 2030 and aims at promoting our civilization, we shall keep chasing our sporting dreams driven by our Qatari morality, Arab identity and Islamic characteristics.
I am confident that our hosting of the World Cup 2022 will be a milestone in international events of the past and future.
Also be sure, that we will organise the best World Cup in the history of the championships even if the English newspapers keep lashing out at us, day and night, for hosting the World Cup, under the pretext that the sun in Qatar rises from the east and not from the Hyde Park in London!