World Cup Kicks Off With Big Stakes For Host Qatar

Qatar's AL KHOR, November 20 (Reuters)
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group A - November 20, 2022, Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar, Qatar vs. Ecuador During the opening ceremony, a general view Pawel Kopczynski for Reuters

Qatar's AL KHOR, November 20 (Reuters) - On Sunday, the World Cup began in Qatar, a Muslim country that has come under fire for its treatment of foreign employees, tolerance of LGBT people, and social restrictions. Qatar is betting its reputation on hosting a successful World Cup.

To the cheers of the audience, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and FIFA President Gianni Infantino entered the stadium and took their seats next to other Arab leaders.

Then a presentation including three camels, American actor Morgan Freeman, and a performance of the new tournament song Dreamers by Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi and singer Jungkook of the K-pop boy band BTS took place on the field.

Ahead of the opening match between the hosts and Ecuador, world leaders including the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, the presidents of Egypt, Turkey, and Algeria, as well as the UN Secretary-General, are present in the stadium's tent-like setting.

FIFA and Qatar are hoping that attention will now shift to the action on the field after charges of worker abuse and discrimination were dismissed. Additionally, the organizers have refuted claims of hosting rights bribes.

There were still a lot of empty seats in Al Bayt Stadium due to traffic jams on the motorway leading to the venue, but applause could be heard as Qatar's players entered the field for their first game.

After three and a half year embargo by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain that concluded in 2021, Qatar's soft power effort culminated in the soccer tournament, the first to be staged in the Middle East and the most expensive in its history.

The UAE sent its vice president, who also serves as ruler of Dubai, where many World Cup supporters have chosen to stay, even if its reunion with Doha has been slower than that of Riyadh and Cairo.

Despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations, a direct commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Doha landed in Qatar on Sunday as part of an agreement facilitated by FIFA to transport both Palestinians and Israelis to the competition.

In comments made to state media, the deputy prime minister of the Gulf state, Khalid Al-Attiyah, claimed that Qatar was reaping the rewards of years of "hard work and solid planning."

On Saturday, FIFA's Infantino attacked Qatar's critics in Europe, claiming that dialogue was the best way to advance rights. Doha has also emphasized labor improvements.

One Love armbands will be worn by the team captains from Germany and Denmark as they get ready to compete in a strict Muslim nation where same-sex relationships are forbidden. All are invited, according to the organizers, but they advise not showing off in public.


Many fans have already arrived in Qatar, but this week's main influx won't start until later.

A sensation of "continuous pressure surrounding you not to say the wrong thing or make the wrong move," as described by orange-clad Dutchman Daniel Oordt to Reuters, pervaded the situation. "A World Cup environment like this is not enjoyable."

Julio Cesar, an Argentine supporter, remarked that he anticipated a lively scene. He said, "We'll drink before the game," when alcohol sales in stadiums were outlawed.

In the heart of Doha, attendees drank beer at the FIFA Fan Festival. Hundreds of workers gathered in a sports facility in an industrial area beyond the municipal limits without alcohol. They may watch games there, having been priced out of the stadiums and other event infrastructure that many people struggled to construct.

"I obviously did not purchase a ticket. They are pricey, and I should put that money to better use by sending it to my family back home, for example, "Security guard Kasim, a citizen of Ghana who has lived and worked in Qatar for four years, told Reuters.

exporter of gas The world's largest soccer tournament is being held in Qatar, the game's smallest country. With 1.2 million tourists planned, or more than a third of the population, crowd management will be essential.

Workers were finishing up the landscaping in Doha by covering an incomplete structure close to the stadium where the championship will be contested with a purple tarpaulin.

The people of Lagoona Mall were going about their daily activities.

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