When Qatar was announced as the winning bid for the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the world watched in shock and amazement. Not only had this tiny sovereign Arab state beaten the rivals bids from Australia, USA and South Korea but it had done so at a landslide. What had FIFA judges seen about the Qatari bid that made them all go all bashful with excitement? Nothing really except for a dream. Qatar itself is a small country with a population of just over 1.8million, most of whom are foreign wrokers. It lacks the footballing infrastructure required to host these games but have built a plan based on money, and lots of it. It’s proposal to FIFA in the fall of 2010 was simple – they would build everything from scratch needed to host the World Cup within the twelve-year timeline. They would fund it through the countries vast wealth, primarily from their petrol and natural gas industries. Everything from stadiums to airports to hotels to transportation was presented and it won over the FIFA panel.
Backed by former pros Ronald Be Boer and Zinedine Zidane, the bid was indeed a grand plan and a high risk one as deemed by FIFA, with several issues beside the logistics of the bid being raised. One such issue was the intense heat of summer in Qatar where temperatures soar to breathtaking 41 degrees celsius (106 degrees fahrenheit) in June and July. With the games traditionally taking place during these months, the unbearable heat would cause havoc to the players and fans alike. Special covered stadium were designed that sprayed a cool mist of water over the teams and fans, supported by super turbines that would drive cool air throughout the ground in an attempt to tackle the heat. But little though was given to the times when no games were being played and fans made their way in their millions across the country by car, buses and trains. Suggestions of moving the World Cup for the first time to the cooler winter months have been met with mixed reactions. This would indeed correct the heat issue however it would disrupt a majority of the major leagues across the world as they attempted to find a 6 week gap in their already tight domestic schedules. Cancellations of cup tournaments and matches have been offered as potential options, but only for one year and likely at a cost to FIFA.
Regardless of when the tournament will be played and if the infrastructure is ready, one certainty is the need to have a competitive host nation compete in its first ever World Cup. Qatar have never qualified for any tournament to date, coming close on only a handful of ocassions. With a limited amount of players to choose from, youth development focused towards 2022 is a key priority, with money and effort been spent to make this a reality. An ambitious target of qualifying from the group stages has been set by the Qatar FA but a more realistic goal would be 3 good performances in what will be a baptism of fire. To achieve this, Qatar has invested heavily in a project called The Aspire Zone, a world-class sports complex that boasts a youth academy, state of the art medical facilities and stadia for events. The facility has already been used by Barcelona and Ajax and more clubs are due to follow in their footsteps over the next few years as Qatar gears up for the biggest event in its history.
The current team is improving slowly, under Brazilian manager Paulo Autuori but still lacks the killer instincts needed to get them to a major tournament. Having scored in a handful of their previous games first, their lack of finishing has ended up costing them the game as time and time again their opponents have come back to draw or beat Qatar. In a match against Uzbekistan, Qatar looked like their luck in front of goal was changing when the Uzbekistan goalkeeper miss timed a challenge leaving the Qatar striker clean through on an open goal. Watch the clip here to see what unbelievably happens next: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4CCc-Qi5iU
Improvements and developments can be made to the infrastructure in Qatar but one thing that can’t be taught is raw talent. Finding the stars of tomorrow may turn out to be the biggest challenge of them all that faces this new football loving nation.