I am a sourpuss contrarian. Show me an argument, and I will show you the opposite argument. Hence, after re-reading my arguments for why Qatar should not host the 2022 World Cup, I am now compelled by my own contrary nature to give you ten reasons why they should host this great event – and not necessarily the reasons the bid team have put forward…
1. They can afford it
If ever a small country had the resources needed to host a World Cup, it is gas-rich Qatar. Money does not guarantee it will be a good tournament, but it will sure help them to avoid some of the potential pitfalls.
2. Small is beautiful
It makes sense that if you spread people around a vast continent, they will not spend much time in each other’s company. In contrast, Qatar’s diminutive size means that whoever comes to play really will be all together in one place. There is great appeal in the prospect of a global village where many nationalities coexist peacefully. Fans of all nations will be together in the same place, meeting and getting to know each other. It is hard to imagine another small country with the wealth to host the World Cup, so this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
3. Qatar is already a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan meeting place for peoples of the world
Qataris are a minority in their own country, with 80% of residents being expats from a wide mix of countries. Walking around Doha, you are at least as likely to hear people talking in English, Tagalog or an Indian dialect as you are to hear Arabic. If anywhere has the potential to show how a decent, tolerant and open-minded Arab and Muslim state could play a role in fostering better relations between diverse peoples, it is Qatar.
4. The World Cup will further help Qatar, and Arabs in general, to engage with the rest of the world
In any culture, there are opposing forces. Some will want to reach out across borders, whilst others prefer more isolation. Holding the World Cup in Qatar is an opportunity to improve understanding and mutual respect between Arabs and other peoples. It should be encouraged. The Qataris are already showing how they look outward, not inward. Thanks to Al Jazeera they punch above their weight when it comes to the free sharing of news and information, and by so doing they have delivered a welcome alternative to the Western domination of news reporting. Young Qataris are encouraged to receive their education from abroad, whilst the Qataris have also introduced Western universities to their local campuses. The World Cup would be another step in ensuring Arabs look beyond the Arab world and that, in turn, the rest of the world better understands Arab culture.
5. Israel might qualify
Israel has had its ups and downs in world sport, and the tragedy at the Munich Olympics was a very low point. But there is no gain without risk. If Israel qualify for a World Cup hosted by an Arab nation, it should give reason for optimism as well as fear. Some Israeli sportsmen have already participated in competitive events in Qatar. If the Israel’s national football side could participate in a free and friendly tournament on Arab soil, it will go a long way to show that the ordinary people can learn to coexist peacefully.
6. Qatar’s leadership is willing to embrace innovation
Qatar’s bid has some revolutionary ideas. They intend to provide air conditioning powered by solar energy. Stadiums will be designed so they can be disassembled and rebuilt as facilities for use in developing countries. Partly thanks to their economic might, Qatar might pioneer ideas that would be too much of a challenge for other countries. By doing so, a Qatar World Cup might be a gift that extends far beyond the borders of the country and the duration of the tournament.
7. Everyone likes an underdog
The general rule is that the most popular teams are the ones that never offend anybody else. If the Qataris can field a team which plays with the good manners and grace that typifies what is best about Qatari customs, they will be appreciated. Whether they have the players to compete is irrelevant.
8. It is called the World Cup, after all
To truly be a World Cup, every part of the world should have the hope of being its host. The Arabs do love football and are serious about investing in it – just look at how they have put their petrodollars into various clubs in the English Premiership. Though Europe is the spiritual home of football, the greatness of the game is that it now belongs to everyone. Whatever the reservations, the World Cup should eventually come to Arabia and Arab nations need to feel like they have a fair chance when bidding to host. If the Qataris show they can run a tournament, prejudice should not be allowed to get in the way of the first World Cup hosted by an Arab country.
9. Whatever obstacles I can imagine, the Qataris have the ambition to overcome them
It was not that long ago that Qatar had a tiny population and barely any industry. Fortune has favoured them with enormous fossil fuel resources, but the leaders of Qatar deserve praise for many of their decisions on how to use this great gift of wealth. They want to create a knowledge economy, to diversify their interests overseas and to transform the lives of Qataris. They invest in luxury stores in the UK and telecoms operators in Indonesia. They also try to project everything positive about culture, becoming home to a world-class orchestra, ever improving museums and art collections, and Robert De Niro’s film festival. Wanting to host the World Cup is just another step forward. Based on previous progress, they can take it in their stride.
10. The England team will not be able to complain about the heat
A perennial excuse for England’s poor performances is that games were played in the sun, that the air was too humid, that the altitude too high, or many other cobblers excuses for the rubbish failure of the preening multimillionaire yobs that fill the England side. But there is no chance of that excuse in Qatar, thanks to their plans to provide air-conditioned stadiums. If England do not like the conditions, they could merely ask someone to turn a dial on the climate control…