As With All The Best Ideas

Football with Qatar Emblem

As with all the best ideas, simplicity is key.

The beautiful game has become the world’s premier sport with a global reach, unsurpassed visibility and, inevitably, an increasingly commercial footprint.

Watching children kick a can, an old tennis ball or an official Adidas match-day replica, it is obvious that one of the reasons for the sport’s profile is its meritocratic nature.  No big budget needed to get on a pitch, a plethora of role models to choose from (including now the women’s game) and a seemingly easy career…kicking a ball to earn a salary that is so extreme that it in itself creates a story.

With its hyper-commercialised current incarnation, the Qatar 2022 World Cup has multitudes of marketing and analytical teams swarming all over every aspect of the build-up, the event and the legacy.  In fact, the match ball’s name (Al Rihla) translates as ‘the journey’ and this sums up the state of Qatar’s current time in the global spotlight; it has been a journey to this point but there is still huge potential for the country to get lost, bogged down or left behind as the big day approaches. 

People love giving directions and so the clicks per page make this happen in real time with armchair experts around the world jostling to take and defend various positions with regard to Qatar’s suitability to host the whole world in Doha next month.

Almost entirely without exception, they are missing the point.

A tiny peninsular (a word itself which connotates isolation, insulation from others), Qatar is surrounded by enormous, powerful neighbours (Saudi Arabia, Iran) and has constantly had to battle to assert its own individual identity against them.  Threats abound: the blockade of neighbouring gulf states in 2017 only recently resolved, half an eye on America’s sprawling interests catered to by providing a space for Taliban mediation, working with Turkey to host air bases and military training facilities while sharing a single land border which Saudi Arabia once proposed turning into a ‘canal’ with ‘associated nuclear waste reprocessing facilities’.  This final idea would have cut Qatar adrift completely-a gulf island at last.  

Only granted independence from the British in 1971, Qatar has a tiny population of local citizens who are totally outnumbered by the well documented migrant workers who have toiled to turn the sleepy fishing village of Doha into its current incarnation.

Originally, the British made the Qataris work in the oilfields. 1 day off a month from the physical, dirty and dangerous work of oil drilling in the early part of last century.  These elder Qataris are celebrated in the spectacular National Museum; a generation whose unrelentingly harsh lives of pearl diving and semi-nomadic life in the winter deserts prepared them well for the rigours of transforming their country into what it is today.

Today, nothing could be less likely than Qatari citizens working in these roles for the benefit of another country.  In an astonishingly short time Qatar has taken its resources, and its chances, to achieve a place on the world stage.  Having oil and gas does not guarantee wealth; look at Venezuela.

A combination of long-term strategic thinking, stable/autocratic rule and close attention to what different alliances want has meant that Qatar’s LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) is now seen as the transition fuel between the current fossil model and a future of renewables.  Along with a sovereign wealth fund which has made it quite likely that at least a few of those signalling virtue by not attending the games will be scoring an own goal by staying at the Ritz, there is a wider push to keep this tiny state on the plinth they have so laboriously created for themselves. 

But in order to keep this liquid wealth safe from enormously powerful neighbours, Qatar has one demand above all others: to be visible.

What better way to bring the focus of the entire world to your tiny state, surrounded by other countries that look like yours, act like yours and are lumped together with yours?  Even now, few could point to Qatar on a map or tell you the name of the capital.  In 8 short weeks that will no longer be the case.

As with all the best ideas, simplicity is key.

J Swift is an English tutor with Newman Tuition, currently teaching at an international school in the Middle East. To book a lesson with him, or one of our other excellent tutors, please call us on 020 3198 8006, email us at [email protected], or complete the form on the ‘Contact Us’ page.

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