Qatar makes World Cup debut in a controversial tournament of firsts


Doha, Qatar
CNN

There have been 21 editions of the Men’s World Cup since its inauguration in 1930, but Qatar 2022 is set to be a tournament unlike any other.

Ever since it was announced as the host city nearly 12 years ago, it was always destined to be a World Cup of championships.

From extreme weather to tournament debuts, CNN takes a look at the ways this year’s competition will break new ground.

This will be the first time Qatar’s men’s national team will participate in a World Cup finals, having failed to qualify through conventional means in the past.

FIFA, the sport’s governing body, allows a host country to take part in a World Cup without having to go through the qualifying rounds, meaning the small Gulf state can now test itself against the world’s best of football.

Qatar is relatively new to the sport, having played its first official match in 1970, but the country has fallen in love with the beautiful game and the national team is steadily improving.

In 2004, Aspire Academy was established with the hope of finding and developing all of Qatar’s most talented athletes.

In recent years, this has paid off for her soccer team. Qatar won the 2019 Asian Cup, capping off one of the most memorable runs in the competition’s history, conceding just one goal throughout the tournament.

Seventy percent of the team that won the trophy came from the academy and that number has only increased at the World Cup.

Coached by Spain’s Felix Sanchez, Qatar will look to surprise the world and face a relatively tame team, along with Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.

Qatar will make a surprise appearance at Qatar 2022.

The World Cup has always been held in either May, June or July, but Qatar 2022 will break away from that tradition – more than necessary.

Temperatures in Qatar can reach over 40 degrees Celsius during these months, so with this in mind, the tournament has been moved to a cooler season.

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However, winter in Qatar is a relative term with temperatures still likely to be around 30 degrees, but organizers hope to combat the heat with multiple methods such as high-tech cooling systems in the stadiums.

The change in tournament dates has disrupted some of the biggest domestic leagues in the world.

All of Europe’s top leagues have had to work a winter break into their schedules, meaning packed fixture lists before and after the tournament.

This will be the first World Cup to be played in November and December.

One of FIFA’s justifications for awarding the hosting rights to Qatar was the ability to move the tournament to a new part of the world.

None of the previous 21 World Cups have been held in an Islamic country and this month’s tournament will be an opportunity for the region to celebrate its growing love for the game.

However, it undoubtedly raised some issues that the organizers had to deal with. For many fans, drinking has been, and will continue to be, a large part of the experience of such tournaments.

In Qatar, however, it is illegal to be seen drunk in public, which forced organizers to find inventive ways around the issue.

As a result, alcohol will only be served in designated fan parks around Doha and there will be separate areas for fans to booze before and after matches.

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Another question mark surrounding the tournament is how the country will be able to cope with an expected influx of one million visitors, given that it is the smallest country to host the World Cup, with a population of just under three million.

As a result, all eight stadiums are located in and around Doha, the capital, and are all within an hour of each other.

Organizers say travel infrastructure – including buses, metro and car hire – will be able to cope with the increased pressure.

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An advantage of the short distances between venues is that fans will be able to see up to two games in one day. Traffic should be polite.

Due to its size, Qatar also had to be smart with its accommodation. Two cruise ships, MSC Poesia and MSC World Europa, dock in Doha to provide some support to the hotels.

Fans will have the opportunity to stay on cruise ships in Doha, Qatar.

Both ships will offer the usual cruise ship experience, but fans will sail no further than a 10-minute bus ride into the heart of Doha.

For those fans prone to a touch of seasickness, organizers have also built three “Fan Villages” that will provide a place to stay on the outskirts of the city.

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These include a variety of accommodation – including caravans, cabins and even camping experiences – all within reasonable distances of the grounds.

Also, for those who can afford a bit more, there will be luxury yachts moored in Doha Harbor that can offer a place to sleep at, let’s face it, an extortionate price.

FIFA has committed to making Qatar 2022 the first carbon-neutral World Cup as world football’s governing body continues its commitment to making the sport more environmentally friendly.

Along with Qatar, it pledged to offset its carbon emissions by investing in green projects and buying carbon credits – a common practice used by businesses to “offset” the impact of their carbon footprint.

Qatar, the world’s biggest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide, has said it will keep emissions low and remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as the tournament produces by investing in projects to capture greenhouse gases.

For example, it will sow the seeds for the world’s largest turf farm by planting 679,000 shrubs and 16,000 trees.

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The plants will be located in stadiums and elsewhere around the country and are supposed to absorb thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

However, critics have accused organizers of “greenwashing” the event – a term used to call out those who try to cover up their damage to the environment and climate with green initiatives that are either false, misleading or overstated.

Carbon Market Watch (CMW), a non-profit advocacy group specializing in carbon pricing, says Qatar’s calculations are grossly underestimated.

Qatar 2022 will also see female referees officiating a men’s World Cup match for the first time.

Yamashita Yoshimi, Salima Mukansanga and Stephanie Frappart have been named among the 36 referees selected for the tournament.

They will be joined by Neuza Back, Karen Diaz Medina and American Kathryn Nesbitt, who will travel to the Gulf nation as assistants.

Frappart is arguably the most famous name on the list after writing her name into the history books in 2020 by becoming the first woman to take charge of a men’s Champions League match.

Referee Yoshimi Yamashita will make her Men's World Cup debut.

But looking to learn from her in Qatar is Rwanda’s Mukansanga, who told CNN she was excited to take on the challenge of officiating at a major tournament.

“I would watch what the referees do, just to copy the best things they do, so that one day I could be like that at the World Cup,” she said, adding that her family was looking forward to seeing her shot on the pitch.

It has not yet been decided when the women will referee their first match in the tournament, but there will be some new rules in place.

For the first time, teams will be able to use up to five substitutes and managers can now choose from a squad of 26 players, instead of the usual 23.

Qatar 2022 is scheduled to begin on November 20. You can watch CNN’s World Cup coverage here.

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