Brazil, France, Argentina or England? Gulf News experts look ahead to the Qatar World Cup kick off
Qatar World Cup 2022 Image Credit: Wires

It is indeed a shame that with the Football World Cup in Qatar well into its second week and by all accounts a resounding success that some of our western writers continue to attack the sponsoring country and the region for a host of issues not necessarily factual or applicable.

Taking in the attendance of massive numbers of fans from all international quarters and the cohesion between the spectators, this World Cup has indeed brought the world together and for that, the host country should hold its head high for not allowing it to be marred by unrelated issues. Political adversaries such as the USA and Iran took to the field and ended the game in a camaraderie of friendship.

The games have been clean and the competition has been high.

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Even though the Qatari authorities went out of their way to placate critics that whatever was practised privately was none of their business, that did not stop the critical barrage from western media against the host country. And as usual, every nook and cranny was dug up to throw more dirt on a tournament that so far has been impeccable. Is it envy or something else?

The barrage reached a crescendo when just before the start of the tournament the authorities decided to restrict the sale of alcoholic drinks to special venues away from the stadium. Scanning most European media during those days, I was amazed to see this as a headline item on a lot of the newscasts coming out of Europe.

It seems that they want to convince the world that football and beer go together. On the other hand, they complain of drunk football hooligans who tear down stadium stands and, in some instances, set fire to them. Where do these individuals in the media get off in assuming that the rest of the world thinks like them or should follow their rules?

Mexico fans on the stands react at the end of the Qatar World Cup group C
Mexico fans on the stands react at the end of the World Cup group C soccer match between Saudi Arabia and Mexico, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. Mexico won 2-1 but failed to advance in the tournament. Image Credit: AP

The Qatari authorities in my opinion did the right thing. Qatar is a small country and large-scale fan disruption would have severely strained their security personnel. So, in the end, it was a wise idea to isolate the drunken revelry to designated watering holes. Judging from the pure excitement on the faces of the spectators at most of the games, the lack of beer did nothing to diminish their passions.

You would think that after all the positive reports from visiting media personnel about the country, the people, and the reception they have received that there would be no let-up, but even as I write this while scanning some of the news websites, the coverage is critical, and very unfairly I might add.

But the games will go on and as we slip into the round of sixteen, the interest levels will reach much higher plateaus. Regardless of the whining of those negative nabobs of journalism, Qatar and the region have much to be proud of in what has transpired so far. An incident-free event with safety for all.

A new dilemma

On another thought, an interesting concept was brought to me by a retired captain friend Ben N. Bringing to attention the war in Ukraine and the devastation it has caused to the infrastructure; Ben suggests that we in this part of the world should learn a lesson from it and take some precautionary steps to protect our infrastructure that would directly affect civilians.

New projects related to water or electricity shall consider the threat of terrorism or war, and must be constructed in a way to minimise damage. This could be achieved possibly through laying the major electric lines deep underground, and including shielded phone cables.

The various key departments should also consider shielding their main crisis response rooms and equipment. And since water is a lifeline to all, similar precautions should be taken with water supply lines and desalination plants. And finally, training of citizens and residents on collective civil defence along with first responders and firefighters.

While this may appear to be far-fetched amid the backdrop of the colourful World Cup, events around the world have shown that nothing is written in stone. Being prepared is being smart.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena