© Reuters. Soccer Soccer – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Preview – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar – November 19, 2022 Full view outside the Al Bayt Stadium ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 REUTERS/John Sibley
By Maya Gebeily and Andrew Mills
DOHA (Reuters) – The World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Sunday in a highly controversial event in a country that has been criticized for its reputation for hosting a sloppy, first-ever Middle East and expensive tournament. in history.
In a show of Arab unity, the prince of Saudi Arabia and the presidents of Egypt and Algeria will be among the political leaders at the opening ceremony led by the emir of Qatar in the tent-like stadium at 5:40 pm (1440 GMT), before the first match. the match between Qatar and Ecuador. The UN Secretary General will also be there.
The competition is the pinnacle of Qatar’s soft power around the world and a show of strength after the exit of the 3-1/2 years that Saudi Arabia and three Arab organizations, including Egypt, ended in 2021. see the first direct flights from Israel to Qatar.
Onstage, South Korean singer Jungkook of K-pop boy band BTS will perform a new hit single titled Dreamers alongside Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi.
Qatar – which has denied allegations of labor abuse and discrimination – and FIFA are hoping the show will take action again after criticism of foreign workers’ rights, LGBT rights and cultural restrictions. Organizers also denied claims of bribery for hosting rights.
In a lengthy speech at a press conference on Saturday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino rounded on the host country’s European critics, saying action was the only way to improve human rights, while Doha also pointed to recent labor reforms.
Team captains Denmark and Germany will wear One Love bracelets, their teams have said, as they prepare to compete in the conservative Muslim world where homosexuality is illegal.
Alcohol has been banned in stadiums. Organizers say all are welcome while warning against public displays of affection.
Many fans are already in Doha but a huge rush is expected this weekend, with daily flights carrying fans from neighboring cities. Upon arrival, Argentina fan Julio Cesar said he was expecting a good atmosphere. “Even if there is no alcohol, we will drink before the game.”
As some guests ate their first meal at the opening of the FIFA Fan Festival on Saturday in central Doha, hundreds of workers, all men, gathered in a stadium on the outskirts of the city where there was no alcohol. They will be able to watch the matches there, cheaper than the many stadiums they have worked hard to build along with other facilities for the event.
“Actually, I didn’t buy a ticket. It’s expensive and I have to use the money for other things – like sending home to my family,” said Ghanaian Kasim, a security guard who has worked in Qatar for four years. , he told Reuters.
Neville, a 24-year-old Kenyan, and his friend Willy, a 24-year-old Manchester City fan, were hired as bodyguards for the event. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Neville said.
Gas-rich Qatar is the smallest country to host the world’s biggest soccer tournament, which was created at a cost of $220 billion. Crowd management will be important as around 1.2 million visitors are expected – more than a third of Qatar’s population.
Workers were working to finish the outdoor gardens and roads on Saturday and the construction site near the National Museum.
But at Lagoona Mall, where the World Cup anthem was played, life continued as normal as people lined up at banks, drank coffee at restaurants and bought groceries.
“I came now because I don’t know how bad the traffic will be this week,” said Esraa, an Egyptian woman who sells food. Carrefour (EPA:).