‘Reason to get along’: World Cup ridicule turns to applause from Gulf rivals Qatar | Qatar

Prior to the biggest event ever held in the Middle East, few regional states seemed to share their neighbor’s excitement.

As the host country, Qatar, frantically pursued its plans, there were even hints of jubilation as the finishing touches failed. Pothole atriums, expensive rooms, a crowded airport, and even last minute beer ban were met with meaningful smirks from many Gulf citizens who refused to share the friendliness.

But after four days of football performance, the Arab teams exceeded all expectations, and Saudi Arabia Giant Killers shining particularly brightly, the World Cup has come alive in a region that belatedly arouses collective pride. From the United Arab Emirates to Morocco and most points in between, the global sporting event of the year is now fully covered.

“Not so long ago, we were all enemies of Qatar,” said Salah al-Oleimi, a Saudi businessman from Jeddah. “Their airspace was closed, trade was prohibited, there were no diplomatic relations,” he said. three year boycott four countries of the Middle East, led by Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. “Everything is closed. We haven’t seen a Qatari for five years.

“But now everything is in the past. Football is a great equalizer.”

In Dubai, a 30-minute flight from Doha, there was almost no sign of an approaching world Cup just a few days before the opening match. But cafes on the city’s Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard were packed on Wednesday, when Germany lost to Japan, and teemed with fans a day earlier after the Saudi side’s memorable victory over Argentina.

The political rivalry has never been far from how the Gulf states viewed Qatar’s winning bid to host the World Cup, and has since become central to its duality. “CVD [Gulf Cooperation Council] are a bunch of warring cousins ​​who don’t like each other very much,” an Emirates official said. “But football gave us a reason to get along for a while.”

Kuwait, another member of the GCC, praised the performances of Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Tunisia, and also expressed some satisfaction with the actions of rival Iran. bashing england. But there was also a share of envy about the fact that Qatar was hosting guests.

“May God bless them and help us. We had no achievements to celebrate,” one Kuwaiti fan wrote on Instagram. “I swear we are worried about all the countries of the Persian Gulf,” wrote another Kuwaiti. “They show a commitment to football and the fans and we have the largest support base in the region.”

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, poses with Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, at the opening ceremony in Doha on Sunday.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, poses with Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, at the opening ceremony in Doha on Sunday. Photo: Balkis Press/ABACA/Rex/Shutterstock

Encouraged by his team’s 2-1 victory over Argentina, Saudi Arabia now completely behind the event. Prince Mohammed was seen praying and hugging relatives after the game, and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, briefly donned the Saudi flag – an unthinkable gesture during the previous political crisis – receiving widespread praise on social media. “In our area, personal dignity is of paramount importance, and such gestures can have historical consequences,” said Nof al-Saud, a student from Riyadh.

The growing attention to the World Cup contrasts with the reaction in the UK and in many European countries, where Qatar’s history of the migrant workers who built its seven stadiums and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ rights continue to draw scathing headlines.

Neither criticism from the Gulf states, which was largely based on migrant labor and where homosexuality remains illegal, is commendable. “Let’s just focus on sports,” Bahraini merchant Ahmad Fakhro said. “Cultural issues are another day. When this event was awarded, the public position of the host was known. The values ​​they promote belong to this region.”

The Qataris have portrayed the way their country is being scrutinized as racist or as part of a hostile campaign led by foreign enemies.

“It’s systematically organized,” said a gas businessman who requested anonymity. “We want to maintain our lifestyle, why are we hated for it? Do you think there are no abuses in Europe?”

Mubaraka al-Marri, a businesswoman and public figure from Doha, said: “We know that the media is one of the tools used to influence people. It’s like a war. You don’t have to use weapons or fight or harm countries, you use the media.”

Belgian fans in rainbow jerseys at the team's match against Canada on Wednesday
Belgian fans wear rainbow jerseys at Canada’s game on Wednesday. Photo: Martin Meissner/AP

Mohammad al-Kassabi, 22, a graduate of the University of Doha, said: “I noticed that many people have certain stereotypes about some of the Gulf countries, and some of them are wrong.” But he claimed to see the positive side too: “When the European and Western media describe the World Cup as a failure, and then it turns out to be a success, everyone will be impressed. If they have low expectations, they are easier to impress.”

Outside the region, the event is commonly referred to as the most controversial World Cup ever, with organizers accused of defying FIFA directives that prohibit discrimination and offer equal access. The global organization of world football is accused of ignoring its own values. Rainbow flags and scarves were confiscated from fans outside the stadiums and the guards stopped showing public affection.

“It’s a clash of values,” said a UAE fan in Dubai. “Let’s get past him. I hope the clash of the teams will be remembered more.”

Additional report by Michael Safi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *