Qatar is the first Muslim-Arab nation to host the world’s biggest sporting event after beating stiff competition to hold the games from the US and Australia. Since FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in 2010, as the host of the tournament, Qatar has been entangled in controversies. Many Islamophobic media outlets have tried to bury the event under the banner of selective liberal views.
Qatar a small but one of the richest nations is surrounded by the Persian Gulf and shares it’s only land border with Saudi Arabia and has a population of two million. Qatar promoted FIFA 2022 as representing the Arab-Muslim World and gained the support from the Arab League and Muslim world.
The World Cup which normally is held during the European winter and off-season in June and July. However during summer in the Middle East temperatures in Qatar exceed 40 C (104 F) making impossible for games likes the World Cup so Qatar decided to conduct FIFA 2022 in the cooler season of November-December and this was supported by FIFA. These changes marked the first time that the World Cup was moved from its regular season of June-July.
Qatar built new stadiums, residences, hotel rooms and a tent cityto accommodate an estimated 1.2 million soccer fans. However, certain Western media and “upholders of liberal activism” triedto overshadow the world’s biggest event as controversialexpecting Qatar to derail its national integrity and moral values. Some nations and their media outlets tried to isolate Qatar and ban Iran from the Qatar World Cup, underestimating Iran-Qatarstrengthened relations particularly since 2017. Further, this year Qatar and Iran took big step forward towards expansion of ties.
The opening ceremony of FIFA 2022 itself showcased new values in world sports with an African-American actor MorganFreeman appearing on stage alongside physically challenged Qatari YouTube star Ghanim al-Muftah, who read from the Quran. Both shared the universal message of unity and pondered over to continue it beyond ceremonial. Al-Muftah is a Qatari activist for the disabled and an African-American took global attention as they contemplated the Quran verses, showcasing pride and integrity of the Muslim world.
From alcohol ban to unfair accusations of ’human rights; against Muslims and Qatar’ backfired as it emerged that alcohol ban brought relief for football fans particularly the female audiencewho felt safer in stadiums and on streets during Qatar World Cup. Qatar set a new standard for the sporting world withoutalcohol proving that sports can simply be watched and enjoyed.
Qatar is considering withdrawing from the Asian Games after its players have been refused permission to wear hijab. Hosting the World Cup and their willingness to withdraw from Asian Games in order to maintain their religious identity, Qatar proves that it’snot necessary to give up one’s creed, culture and traditions to please anyone. The selective human right activism tried to bring anti-Hijab protests to Qatar, in reality the forgotten Palestinian flag was shown all over and empowered Asian and Arab sports through-out the FIFA festive. World Cup 2022 proved that it is no more the monopoly of the West.
As journalist C.J Werleman noted, “For the past weeks the Islamic faith had been showcased to a global audience like never before”. Argentina won the FIFA 2022 World Cup but the ultimate winner of the game was Qatar. Although certain European nations exploited ‘certain rights issues’ to demonize Islam in order to justify anti-Muslim policies in their countries, Qatar positively proved that even a small Islamic nation can successfully stage the world’s largest sport event without compromising its religious identity and national integrity.