On November 20, 2022, the 22nd World Cup officially kicked off at the Gulf Stadium in Qatar. This is the first World Cup held in the Middle East and the Arab world, and it is also the first time in the history of the World Cup that it will be held in winter. On October 17, the AFC announced that the 2023 Asian Cup will also be held in Qatar. This means that after this year’s World Cup, Qatar will host the intercontinental football tournament for two consecutive years.
We in the northern hemisphere, who are used to the World Cup with beer skewers, rarely feel the winter of ice and fire. We, who are used to jumping black and white checkered balls on the green field, will also be fascinated by watching the official World Cup MV, in which Arabs in robes and bare feet dance with football in the smoky desert. There is no sense of disobedience in all of this, because it is our common World Cup.
“Hao” throws 200 billion, the most money-burning World Cup in history
When Raib, the mascot of the Qatar World Cup, flew towards us with a smile, people used all kinds of international and popular comparisons to describe him, saying that he was “slab fish”, “wonnel stewed skin”, “Aladdin fly”. “blanket”, laughing that it is the only mascot without feet in the previous World Cup. But in any case, we all clearly recognize that Raib, who is all white, has a black hoop on his small head, and a mysterious and friendly Middle Eastern atmosphere suddenly blows over us.
When it comes to the Middle East, many people subconsciously divide it into two places in their minds: the Middle East, which is suffering from war and poverty, and the Middle East, which is alone and rich. Qatar is classified as the latter without any suspense.
Therefore, when Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, the eyes of the world turned to the richest man with the smallest population in the Middle East, and looked forward to what kind of amazing work Qatar would bring to the world. In April this year, the British “Sun” reported that the World Cup in Qatar spent 200 billion US dollars from the preparation to the opening. This is really an astronomical figure in the era of global economic downturn. We can only mobilize data to look back at previous records: the cost of the Qatar World Cup is 5 times the sum of the previous 7 expenses. For example, in 1994, the United States spent only 300 million US dollars to host the World Cup. In 1998, France spent 2.3 billion. Along with the first economic crisis in the 21st century, World Cup expenses also began to drop sharply. In 2006, the cost of the World Cup in Germany dropped to 4.3 billion. In 2010, the cost of the World Cup in South Africa continued to drop to only 3.6 billion. In 2014, Brazil spent 14 billion U.S. dollars, and then the 2018 World Cup in Russia was exposed to a deficit of 11.6 billion U.S. dollars, and it also lost money. That is to say, in the previous 7 sessions, the host country spent a total of 44.3 billion US dollars, which is only 1/5 of Qatar’s current session.
For this World Cup, Qatar’s eight stadiums are eagerly awaiting. These 8 stadiums are both newly built and refurbished. They are like pearls inlaid in the harbor in this country, which is half desert and half sea water, burning with Arab enthusiasm. The opening ceremony and the first group match were held at the Gulf Stadium. It was shaped like a tent in the desert with an openable and closed roof, stubbornly resisting the tropical desert climate that was not suitable for hosting the World Cup. The “974” stadium is known as one of the most innovative stadium designs in history. The name shows that it is built with 974 containers, all seats are movable, and this number is also Qatar’s international long-distance Telephone area code, the stadium can also be dismantled in its entirety after the game. The name of the Khalifa International Stadium also represents a venue with history and glory, and it is also the focal point of Qatar’s world-famous Al Asbel Sports Complex. The brand-new Ahmed Ben Ali Stadium is called the “Gate of the Desert”. Its architecture is inspired by sand dunes and Islamic architecture. In the “Best Stadium of 2020” published by the world-renowned professional stadium data website StadiumDB, Al-Ahma The Med Ben Ali Stadium ranks third in the world. As for the Janub Stadium, located in the oldest residential area of Qatar, it is also an architectural treasure. It is the masterpiece of the late well-known architect Zaha Hadid, left behind when sailing on the sea with a wooden dhow Inspired by ripples, it pays tribute to the ancient maritime history of the Middle East before the beginning of the oil age.
The Qataris said that these eight stadiums were built for fans by the world’s top architectural firms. Behind every pitch lies a story beyond the World Cup. However, only $6 billion of the $220 billion was spent on new construction and refurbishment of the stadium, with the rest spent on the development of infrastructure and supporting facilities to improve the overall comfort of Doha. For example, upgrading the subway system for fans from all over the world has a budget of 36 billion.
In May 2019, the first station of the 4 new subway lines in Doha opened. This line is currently the most advanced and fast unmanned driving system in the world. . I once stood under the scorching sun of 46 degrees Celsius in Dubai, wondering whether it is necessary to build a subway system in a wealthy country in the Middle East. In cities like Dubai and Doha, the city center is small and concentrated, and most locals drive by car. The luxury hotel group can even take a highway from the airport to the beach at the other end of the city. If you want to go to a large shopping mall and take a taxi, it only costs a few hundred dirhams (1 dirham is about 1.9 yuan). I still remember that August, when I was driving on the highway to Abu Dhabi, I saw a large empty subway station in the distance. White dust rises from the steaming asphalt road, and the surrounding area of the subway station is so barren that there is no grass growing. The surrounding area looks like a lonely flaming mountain landform. The semi-open-air platform is so transparent that you can see the inside and outside clearly, and there is no one there. I thought it was a subway station that hadn’t been built yet, and then I saw a carriage slowly entering, with a few passengers flashing inside. I bet it was because no one had the guts to get out of the car and walk ten minutes in 46°C heat to a bus stop or whatever. You know, at that time we rushed out of the hotel at a speed of 100 meters to take a car, but it felt like our whole body would melt away after staying for half a minute.
Qataris say that the Middle East is one of the most football-loving regions in the world. Qatar, on the other hand, has waited even longer to host the World Cup. This will be an opportunity and a catalyst to make the World Cup a milestone in the realization of Qatar’s national vision. Football is already the national dream of Qatar. In the wave of the sports world, we have witnessed many countries promote dream sports with traditional sports, or small balls with big balls, or speed to ignite passion, and Qatar’s perfect turn seems even more wonderful. In 2021, UNESCO will list the “Falconry” of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other countries as the world’s intangible cultural heritage. That’s right, the number one sport in Qatar is falconry. According to statistics, about 70% of the people in the country like falconry.
Once, the desert meant danger and death to ordinary people, but in the eyes of Qataris, the desert represented a sacred hometown. For thousands of years, the Qataris have hawked the sky and fought through the sky. They not only conquered the dangerous yellow sand, but also took the most ferocious hunter in the desert under their command and became the national totem. That is the national bird of Qatar – the falcon . Falconry is the main way for the Bedouins, one of the Arab tribes, to hunt in the desert. After the 15th century, with the invention of gunpowder, falconry activities purely for hunting gradually took a backseat. However, in order to preserve this tradition, Arabian People have continued to use falconry as a recreational sport to this day. In the Arab region, falconry symbolizes money, power and status, and it is also a standard sport for the rich in Qatar. As the plaything of the world’s top rich people, the price of a falcon usually ranges from 4,000 to 20,000 US dollars. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also took the lead in applying for passports for falcons, so that they can travel around the world by plane with their owners.
Compared with the thousands-year-old Falconry tradition, football is young and passionate, and it is also a springboard for Qatar’s global “shopping” sports. In the Gulf Cup of West Asia in 1970, the Qatar national team officially participated in an international football match for the first time, and was eliminated at the bottom with only 1 point. Three years later, Qatar invited Pele to play a friendly match. The Qatar national team increased its exposure, but it was still no surprise that it made its first appearance that year and was eliminated in the World Cup qualifiers. In 1981, the Qatar youth team shocked the football world. It reached the semi-finals in the first World Youth Championship, and was finally defeated by the German team 0:4 in the heavy rain in Sydney and won the runner-up. At the time, the coach of the Qatar youth team, the Brazilian international Evaristo said with regret that the players were not used to playing in the rain. This reason must be too far-fetched if it is placed on teams from other continents. However, for Qatari players who train in a desert climate, playing games in the rain may be their first experience in life.
From 1969 to 2017, the Qatar national team changed 43 coaches in 48 years. The frequent changes of coaches also show Qatar’s desire to enter the World Cup. However, sparse population has always been one of the main reasons for its slow football development. So in the late 1990s, Qatar began to introduce some African players, and then even spent a lot of money recruiting stars in the Bundesliga. The matter of buying players overseas means that whoever has more money can have more powerful players. Therefore, FIFA is bound to intervene, requiring even naturalized players to live in the country for 5 consecutive years before they are eligible to participate in the planning. Seeing that the way to buy players with a lot of money was going to be impossible, Qatar took another approach. In 2014, it invested 1.4 billion US dollars to build the Asbeyer Center of the Sports Academy. They search for children with sports talents all over the world, and provide trial training courses for 5,000 children aged 11-12 every year. Outstanding talents are retained and receive full funding from the Asbel Center. According to statistics, from 2007 to 2014, 3.5 million boys from 17 countries were inspected by the Asbel Training Center. At the same time, Qatar’s consortium also took a strong stake in European super clubs, and sent players trained in Asbel to Europe for training.
In the 2019 Asian Cup, Qatar won the group stage and won the first Asian Cup championship in the history of the national team. From 1969 to 2019, it took only half a century for Qatar’s football to mature.
In order to welcome the World Cup in Qatar, the football atmosphere in the capital Doha is strong and enthusiastic.
The last stubbornness of “post-80s”
Maybe winter will always add sadness, maybe it is the chaos of this world that messes up people’s optimism in the past. Before the start of the World Cup in Qatar, the world’s major media routinely speculated that people were full of infinite desolation: Can the traditional strong teams get rid of the downturn? Who will the injury stop? Whose World Cup swan song will this be? Some fans bluntly said: Qatar World Cup will be the most “hurt” one!
This is destined to be another “end” and “beginning” of two generations of players. No matter how hard we feel about it, this will be the last stubbornness of a generation of “post-80s”. The 37-year-old Croatian captain Modric said, “I know that I have reached a certain age, and this will be the last game I will participate in on behalf of Croatia.” The 35-year-old Messi recently said in an interview with a smile: It’s my last World Cup, it’s time to give the stage to young people.” But the reporter who interviewed him choked up. There is also the 37-year-old Ronaldo who was dissatisfied with the substitute in the Manchester United game recently and left the field early, leaving a series of greetings and exclamation marks. They have changed from high-spirited chasing boys to dejected late veterans. In their passionate arena, there are joys and grievances in the group stage, regretful defeat in the knockout round, resurrection from the dead in a penalty shootout, and even a slight difference in the final. Last dance.
On the other side of the green field, young players began to catch up with their predecessors and explore their dreams. In the summer of Russia in 2018, the 19-year-old Mbappe “Nitrogen Acceleration” was still in no one’s land, helping the French team win the Hercules Cup and leapt to the top of the global football net worth overnight. In 2018, the sunny and handsome “J Luo” represented the Colombian team and won the Golden Boot. In this World Cup, the Danish team is predicted to be a dark horse because of the “post-00” star Damsko. Whether it is two generations of superstars who are peerless and proud, or the three superstars who are swan song, we cannot escape the emotional reincarnation of football after all.
The World Cup in Qatar is coming, and the first snow season is about to usher in the northern hemisphere. We can still drink freely on the rooftop and share the glory of the top of the desert with a toast. We may hear that philosophical poem again: There is only one kind of heroism in the world, and that is to still love her after seeing the truth of life clearly. The climb up the road is more exciting than standing at the top, isn’t it?
The world is in a mess. The World Cup, candlelight on the plate, and Dances with Wolves are full of chapters.