When Sepp Blatter, former head of FIFA, announced that the 2022 World Cup was to be held in Qatar it sent shock waves reverberating around the world. The tournament had never been held in the Middle East before and the country itself had never qualified for the finals.
What’s more, questions started to be asked about how players would manage to play at their very best in the 50 degree plus heat of the Qatari sun as the tournament is generally held in July when national leagues are on their summer break.
A cool solution
The latter point was quickly addressed by agreeing to hold the Qatar World Cup at the end of November instead when the temperatures would be more manageable for the players, not to mention the millions of supporters that it is hoped will be attracted by this spectacular event.
Even though the weather consideration has, theoretically, been resolved there have also been many questions asked about exactly how a country with so little footballing heritage and experience will be able to stage the sport’s biggest tournament in just five years’ time from now. The answer, fortunately, is by investing huge amounts of money in making sure that everything is ready on time.
Qatar is considered to be the world’s richest country per capita thanks to its huge oil and gas reserves so it has been able to commit an astonishing $200 billion to investing in the country’s infrastructure as well as to the building of at least eight brand new stadiums in which to host the 32 teams who will be competing in 2022.
As well as plans to build a $35 billion metro and rail system to ferry fans from stadium to stadium the intention is also to double the capacity of the already huge Doha airport enabling it to handle 53 million passengers a year. In terms of the stadiums these are employing some of the world’s most famous architects including Albert Speer and Partners and the aim is to be able to dismantle parts of them after the tournament is over to donate to countries with less advanced footballing programmes.
A very welcome side-effect for the country is that its already increased profile is already starting to attract investors of every kind involved in everything from property speculation to commodities trading and looks likely to continue to do so both up until the 2022 tournament kicks off an beyond.
Building a team
However there is one piece of the jigsaw still to be completed and that is to have a national side capable of competing at the highest level. But help is at hand here with numerous training academies having been set up to find and develop new talent. Scouts are also visiting all of the country’s schools on the lookout for the next Ronaldo or Neymar and fingers are firmly crossed that some will turn up in time to do Qatar proud.
So despite the obvious difficulties and the global scepticism that first greeted the 2010 announcement of Qatar’s successful bid it does look like everything is slotting into place to ensure success.
Whether that will also extend to the Qatar national team getting beyond the group stage, only time will tell.