After a six-month world tour of fifty countries, the cup, which will be lifted by the winner on 18 December, arrived in the Emirates on Sunday morning, seven days before the opening match, which will see Qatar and Ecuador beat on 20 November.
FIFA’s call to “focus” on football still faces European criticism over treatment reserved for migrant workers, women and the LGBT+ community.
“I think that’s what we’ve read in recent weeks,” Ringo Gonzalez, an Ecuadorian living in Germany, told AFP during the World Cup countdown on the beach in Doha.
“It would be nice to finally see the teams. I want to see how Ecuador get good results and have Lionel Messi and other stars in action,” he added.
The US team had recently reached the artificial island The Pearl (La Perla) and Australia was to land on Sunday night.
– Messi, Neymar and Mbappe on the pitch –
As a result of the tournament being postponed until the boreal autumn to take advantage of the milder temperatures, there were still games in the big European championships this weekend and many of the stars were on the field with their clubs’ jerseys on.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Brazil’s Neymar and Frenchman Kylian Mbappe were in the starting eleven for Paris Saint-Germain in their 5-0 win against Auxerre in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
In the port of the capital Doha, behind a countdown clock, a huge cruise ship, MSC Europa, built to accommodate thousands of fans before sailing out to sea, was to be christened this afternoon.
In accordance with the conservative Muslim country’s laws, which restrict alcohol consumption and ban gambling, a bottle of rose water instead of champagne will be smashed against the hull while the ship’s casino in port remains closed.
MSC Europa, which is full for the first two weeks of the tournament, and two other ships should accommodate about 10,000 people. An imaginary solution to avoid housing problems in the smallest country to host the Football World Cup (11,571 km², equal to the Paris area).
Barriers have been erected in Doha’s streets, around metro stations and stadiums for weeks, as security forces prepare for a million fans a month.
According to organisers, 2.9 million tickets have been sold out of a total of 3.1, and fans visiting the main outlet in the West Bay neighborhood often leave empty-handed, such as Australian resident Matthew Coleman in Doha and his Dutch friend Gijs Beinker, who were sold out. No “interesting” matches were found.
– war of words –
Not far from there, at an official souvenir shop, customers are often European and interested in the tournament ball and its mascot Lieb, its employees say.
Migrant workers from South Asia have bought thousands of Brazil and Argentina jerseys, which they have been wearing for days, their fate at the center of many discussions since Qatar won the World Cup in late 2010.
European and Qatari media have been waging a war of words over the legitimacy of the oil-rich emirate to host the World Cup.
A British newspaper reported on Sunday that many fans thought Qatari Indians were “paid” to take part in the march to cheer on Argentina and Brazil.
The Qatari Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq responded that the anti-Qatar campaign “confirms the arrogance of some Western countries that think hosting the World Cup should be their monopoly.”
For the daily Al Raya, “The enthusiastic and festive atmosphere of these crowds of football fans of different nationalities (…) shows the failure of smear campaigns led by some Western media and politicians.”