The intensity travels the streets. Not because of the weather. That is already known so much that it is boring. It is something else, not identifiable. Or yes, but difficult to describe in a few words. It is enthusiasm, anxiety, euphoria. Hope, there’s a lot of that. Even in the fans of nations without much tradition and who were never successful in the World Cups. They raise replicas of the trophy. Each one of them assures that their country will win the Qatar 2022 tournament. Even those who deep down know that they are riding an illusion without much sense. It is, nonsense, one of the explanations for so many sensations that are experienced at this time. It is what football achieves. Cup fever is transmitted in the air that fans breathe. And everywhere there are Argentines. On any walk you will not go more than a couple of blocks without coming across someone wearing a national team jersey or flag. Whether it is someone who traveled from our country or foreigners who adore Lionel Messi and openly express their love for Argentina.
The party that is expected four years each time it ends (four and a half years, this time), is already underway. It will open with the meeting that the host, Qatar, and Gustavo Alfaro’s Ecuador will play at 7, very early (13 local), at the Al Bayt-Jor stadium. And at that moment, when even tens of thousands of Argentines settle in front of the television to watch a game that in no other context would be remotely interesting to them, we will understand what all this inexplicable World Cup madness is about.
The World Cup will be unique in history. It is said many times, but this time there are more reasons than ever. They are endless, but 10 of them can be listed here, to understand why Qatar 2022 will be unforgettable even before knowing the winner.
1) The most expensive World Cup in history
Qatar is estimated to have spent between $200 billion and $220 billion to host the tournament. The recovery of such an expense is impossible. The search is another. The Qatari government hopes that the World Cup will change the impression of its image by its behind-the-scenes decisions (claims for human rights, employment contracts). They have plenty of money. The exposure that they had up to now with some denunciations of modern slavery, for example, made some things change. There are improvements, although they are considered insufficient. The idea is to activate tourism through the unbeatable window that they have just opened to the world. They are not exempt from corruption. A couple of years ago the head of the budget, Ali Shareef Al-Emadi was arrested for embezzlement.
2) Off schedule
The organization of the tournament in a country with extreme temperatures throughout the year forced to break the usual program of FIFA and deposited the tournament in the middle of the club season. A decision that was not free either. For the first time, the organization must compensate the clubs for using the players outside the usual schedule. Another $200 million total. Ten thousand dollars a day for the highest paid players.
3) Without rest or preparation, a sea of injuries
It is a direct consequence of the previous item. To make room for the World Cup, the calendar was compressed in the main competitions on the planet. All the countries suffered it, internally and this tournament suffers it. The physical pressure to which the players were subjected to play so often means that the casualties are many. Chris Nkunku, Ngolo Kante, Paul Pogba (France), Gio Lo Celso, Nicolás González and Joaquín Correa (Argentina), Timo Werner and Marcos Reus (Germany), Philippe Coutinho (Brazil), Diego Jota (Portugal)… They are just a few, but there are many more and others will fall during the competition. By case, Karim Benzema is very complicated: this Saturday he left training with a muscular overload in his right leg that would leave him out.
4) The first post-pandemic
The world will not be the same after the coronavirus and neither will football. The emergency measures temporarily taken in 2021 to protect the teams (increase to rosters of 26 players and five changes per team), seem to be here to stay. The new modality increases costs and forces them to have larger concentrations. A double-edged sword, due to the gigantism that at some point complicated the Olympic Games. With 32 teams, the maximum in history, and that number of footballers, the teams brought 832 players to Qatar, another record.
5) The first in the Arab world
An old idea from Joseph Blatter, to bring the World Cups to every continent and every culture. First it was South Africa awarding the first on the African continent. Now it was the turn of the Arab world. And it is, precisely, the election for which Blatter ended up expelled from FIFA, involved in a scandal of bribes to the leaders in charge of voting for this World Cup.
6) The last of Messi
He did not confirm it, but it is unlikely to believe that he could play another game at 39 years old. Not that it means his removal from the national team. He said nothing about it. The Copa América was to be played in 2023 and that was a big temptation, trying to defend the title. But it is very likely that he is also attracted to the pursuit of individual goals, such as reaching 100 goals in the light blue and white jersey (he has 91). But that is the future. He now shows him in a fantastic state of form, beyond the fatigue due to so much work in recent weeks. He leads a team of Scaloni in a state of grace, undefeated in three years and with overwhelming momentum. An invitation to dream.
7) The first with refrigerated stadiums
Seven of the eight stadiums will be air-conditioned for the first time. Even under the seats of the spectators there will be air intakes. The subject can be problematic, because the temperature changes between the closed places and the outside is very great and causes innumerable health problems. It is not unusual to see many people in coats in the middle of the desert.
8) In a single city
It’s not the first time. For example, it had happened in 1930, in Uruguay, when the tournament was played entirely in Montevideo. Doha will have its eight stadiums within a radius of 55 kilometers, which allows, for example, that fans and the press have access to more than one match per day, something quite unusual.
9) Alcohol and sexuality in the spotlight
One of the most exploited points of sale in the World Cups are the beer stalls. There won’t be here. That’s the minor issue: “They can go three hours without drinking alcohol,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino was annoyed when asked about a prohibited custom in Qatar. However, at the fan fest it began to sell out and thus the country broke a long-standing tradition. At 15 dollars, four per person maximum. But it can. It was also tried to do it in the stadiums, although it was not approved there… for now.
When Infantino was told about sexuality (because of the organizers’ requests to publicly express affection), he released a stronger phrase so that there are no doubts. “Today I feel gay, Qatari, Arab, African, disabled and an immigrant worker,” he reflected, in order to appear diverse in the face of the claims. And he punished the First World countries for the criticism he hears daily for giving the organization of the tournament to a state that does not respect diversity or human rights. “For what we did in the last 3,000 years, we Europeans should apologize for another 3,000 years before giving moral lessons to others. These moral lessons are just hypocrisy.”
10) Female judges
For the first time in history there will be female referees among men. Stéphanie Frappart (France), Salima Mukansanga (Rwanda) and Yoshimi Yamashita (Japan) will be the pioneers in a World Cup that, without exaggeration, will be the most unusual in history.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.