Doha, Qatar – On the opening night, the excitement is growing for Qatari citizens and expatriates. It has been a long time since the Gulf nation won the World Cup in 2010.
This period has been marked by a flurry of construction that has transformed the capital, Doha, and its surrounding areas – and has brought with it both challenges and opportunities.
With over three million Qatari expatriates, the gas-rich country has been able to tap into foreign talent, skills and cultures brought by those displaced with the promise of jobs.
So, how do some of those living outside of Qatar feel about the FIFA World Cup being held in Qatar? Al Jazeera spoke to some of them to find out.
Paul El Boustani is of Polish-Lebanese descent but was born in Qatar and calls it home.
The 31-year-old finance major says he is proud Qatar will host the World Cup but admits there were many frustrating moments as the country prepares for the event.
“One day you are driving on the road to work and the next day the road is closed without any information about the construction work. This used to frustrate me from time to time,” he said. Also, parking was a big problem due to the lack of space due to construction.
‘Hypocrisy in the Western press’
Syrian-American Bayan Khayari is in Qatar since 2019.
The 19-year-old student of the university says that it is very important that the Arab and Islamic world is holding this competition because it will make the western people know the region better, because not many of them “experience this culture”.
“There is a lot of deception in the Western media about the World Cup. Most of it comes from xenophobia and racism,” he says, referring to the wrong reports about Qatar in the preparation of the event.
“Hosting the Games comes with its challenges, be it Qatar, Russia, Brazil,” he says, naming the countries where the World Cup has been held before. “It always comes with its challenges.”
Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record have been in the spotlight since it won the right to host the tournament, prompting protests from groups. Qatari officials and FIFA responded to the criticism by criticizing what they called “double-dealing”.
A recent cartoon by a French publication depicting Qatari football players as “terrorists” has sparked outrage on social media, with users calling it “Islamophobia” and “racism”.
Khayari also said: “There are many laws in France that discriminate against people because of religion. “Also, Danish players have decided to wear faded jerseys to protest human rights in Qatar. But Denmark has a plan to return Syrian refugees to Syria,” he adds.
‘Raising the importance of sport’
Justin, a 30-year-old teacher from Kisii town in southwest Kenya, has been living in Qatar since March 2012.
“When I arrived in Qatar, I went to school to become a personal trainer. It was not easy because I had to pay from the small amount of money I received as an entertainment manager. “Now I earn money by helping people to be healthy,” he says.
Having been in Qatar through a large part of the preparations for the World Cup, Justin is not afraid to complain about the traffic caused by the constant construction.
“What would normally be a 10 to 15 minute ride, changed overnight to 30-45 minutes. It was difficult to meet clients or come to work; a lot of time was lost just being stuck in the car.”
But Qatar winning the right to host the event has had many advantages, Justin says.
“Since the country started preparing, people have been making people aware of the importance of sports. More and more people come to exercise, lose weight and stay healthy. It has become a habit, and I believe that this will continue after all the World Cup fights are over,” he says.
‘Great Middle East Travel adventure’
Ismael Cadus is a 37-year-old Palestinian teacher who was born in Brazil but now lives in Doha.
“Football fans now know Arab culture. This is not a moment of pride for Qatar, but for all Arab countries,” he says.
“For many people who travel from faraway places like Brazil, they don’t see the excitement of the World Cup. They can go to Bethlehem, where Christ was born, the home of the pharaohs, the Egyptians – all in one trip. This is the best tour of the Middle East,” he added.
‘Habibi, come to Qatar’
Aurelie, a 31-year-old tour operator from France, says the excitement of the World Cup is palpable in Doha but ahead, residents face several challenges.
He said: “Life has become expensive, especially rent.” “The World Cup is approaching, many landlords have raised the rent. It’s painful, who likes to pay rent? Although everything is expensive in Qatar, except fuel. “
Aurelie adds that the frequent road closures and traffic separations during the high security measures were frustrating for Qatari residents, but she feels it is “good” to be in Qatar for the event.
“It is very difficult for Qatar because it is the first time that the World Cup will be held in the Gulf and in the Arab countries,” he adds.
“But it is the first time in the history of the World Cup that all the fields have been shortened. You won’t even need to get on a plane to follow a group, just hop on a train. Fans like me who support multiple teams will never miss a game due to travel issues, everything has become so much easier.
“Habibi, come to Qatar and find out.”