Why this is a culturally unique World Cup


This will never be a Traditional World Cup.

Starting in the Middle East and competing for the first time in winter Europe, things always look and feel different.

Qatar has been described by some as the host of the most controversial World Cup tournament, with criticism from allegations of corruption in the bidding process to a callous disregard for human rights.

It is clearly right to shed light on the deaths and conditions immigrant workers have to endure in order for this tournament to take place, as well as LGBTQ and women’s rights, although some Qataris may wonder Why is their country so fiercely criticized when countries with questionable human rights records, or laws restricting the freedoms of certain members of society, have also held sporting events? great sport in recent years.

For example, the most recent World Cup was held in Russia, a country that makes it illegal for anyone to promote same-sex relationships or consider non-heterosexual tendencies. “usually, common, normal.”

But the world is complex and full of contradictions, and hosting a major sporting event is not just a matter of one country’s politics. It’s also about culture and people, their hopes and dreams.

In the past four weeks, this tiny Gulf State has truly become a global village. Fans of all 32 teams, along with supporters from many other countries, mingled in a way never before seen in previous tournaments, which span a much wider geographical area. .

Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s cheering for whom when throngs of cheering fans will follow the drummers through Souq Waqif, a market in downtown Doha, just reveling in the joy of the experience. to shared.

“The atmosphere in Qatar is like a wedding in Morocco,” one supporter told CNN in the thick festive atmosphere. “When people enjoy music and sing, it’s like a big party.”

Supporters dance and sing at Souq Waqif in Doha on November 30, 2022, during the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar.

Morocco’s thrilling semi-final was a turning point for the sport, the first time a team from outside Europe and South America reached the final week in the tournament’s 92-year history.

But even before the Atlas Lions’ sensational victory over Portugal, it was Africa’s most successful World Cup, as well as for Asia, which saw three teams – Japan , South Korea and Australia – reached the round of 16 for the first time ever. In 2005, world governing body FIFA approved Australia’s move from the Oceania Football Confederation to the Oceania Football Confederation. Asian Football Confederation.

There were certainly matches that will be remembered for years to come.

Saudi Arabia scored a longstanding result, beating Argentina in the opening match, while Iran shone, despite protests and violence in their homeland with an admirable performance against Wales and America.

Moroccan fans show their support before the 3rd place match against Croatia.

This is a tournament in which the losers challenge the old world order and win everyone’s respect in doing so.

Moroccan supporter Boubker Benna told CNN he believes the message of this World Cup is self-determination.

“You may be the underdog,” he said, “but if you do your thing, you can achieve big, big things. What is that [Morocco head coach] Walid Regragui is trying to prove. And that’s what Morocco is trying to prove.”

It’s not uncommon to see African fans cheering on other teams from their continent, but it’s especially impressive to witness the shared joy in Qatar, where CNN spoke to fans from Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian territories all cheer for Morocco at the latter stage.

“If France plays, you will see only the French supporting their team, never England or Germany backing them. And I don’t know why,” Moroccan fan Adam Marzoug explained.

A musician from Oman performs traditional music at the Corniche promenade in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, November 26, 2022.

He continued: “That is why it is special for Arab, Muslim and African countries. That’s what keeps us strong in every tournament, this is just the beginning.”

His friend, Oumaima Amallah, added: “Despite all the political and historical issues, Muslims, Arabs and Africans love each other and they are like brothers and sisters and everyone is happy. happy for us, just as they would be happy for their own country.”

It is poetic when Morocco overthrows two of its former colonists, Spain and Portugal, and confronts a third, France. But any match-fixing is done politely and respectfully.

Supporters who spoke to CNN will always praise Qatar for hosting the World Cup and express their gratitude and thanks for bringing it to the region.

And despite the surprise, even outcry, in some media outlets, when Budweiser beer stations were automatically removed from stadium lounges on the eve of the tournament, there was Who really misses alcohol?

Undoubtedly, many of the people we spoke to, including former player turned broadcaster Ally McCoist, agreed that as a result the atmosphere among the crowds became much friendlier.

We watched as security personnel in the stadium respectfully asked the Argentine fans not to wear their tops, humbly signaling by clasping their hands in front of their chests. Local customs are followed and cultures are exchanged. The sea of ​​people overflowing from every stadium to the subway station passed by scores of musicians and dancers.

What may have been described as a cultural clash resembles a cultural exchange here in Qatar.

“We have to be open to our thinking,” said David Hamriri, an engineer currently working in Europe. “I am very rich, culturally, because I have an open mind.

“We have feelings,” he continued, “We have many conflicts in the world. But when we enjoy football, we forget about this problem. We forget the economic crisis, and we go back to the roots. A value of humanity, shared between Western and Eastern societies. I find it wonderful.”

Fans are seen on the Doha subway before the match between Argentina and Mexico.

The fans CNN interviewed left Qatar with positive memories of their experience.

England fan Theo Ogden, who attended all 64 of the tournament’s matches, told CNN: “People say you can’t host the tournament in the desert, and they’ve proven that they did. wrong.

“They were very welcoming. You won’t find a single fan here saying they had a bad time, and that’s because they’re so hospitable. I don’t think that is talked about enough.

Ogden can only try to achieve his feat at this World Cup, where every stadium is a metro or taxi ride away.

The area of ​​the 2026 World Cup will be nearly 2,000 times larger than in the US, Mexico and Canada. Qatar has managed to turn the world’s most popular game into something much smaller, and all the better for it.

From results on the field, to field experience. Qatar 2022 is memorable.

But we must not forget that there are members of the football community who have refuse to travel here, LGBTQ fans feel unsafe supporting their team because of Gulf State laws. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and carries a penalty of up to three years in prison.

LGBTQ rights are an issue that won’t go away during the tournament as reports also surfaced of security officials asking people to take off their rainbow colored clothes – a symbol of pride. LGBTQ.

FIFA decision threatens to punish any player who wears a shirt armband “OneLove”, featuring a heart in different colors to promote inclusion, has created a rift between the sport’s governing body and the seven European nations whose captains intend to wear it.

Two migrant workers presumed dead during this World Cup – John Njue Kibue, 24, from Kenya, who is believed to have fallen on duty at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium and another worker has died at the resort nutrition used by Saudi Arabia in the group stages.

And it is difficult to verify how many migrant workers have died from working on league-related projects.

Football is fascinating, yes, the atmosphere is intoxicating during these four weeks, but for some the tournament has come at a heavy price and that must not be forgotten.


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