The World Cup in Qatar is history. But three weeks after the finale, it’s still present in many places, even though “normal life” is back. The view goes to an Arab neighbor.
The colorful World Cup flags flutter unchanged in the wind on the multi-lane main roads. The World Cup mascot “La’eeb” is still omnipresent on huge advertising walls and banners in Qatar’s capital Doha. The glittering facades of the skyscrapers continue to be illuminated in the evenings with huge pictures of football stars such as England’s Harry Kane or Holland’s Virgil van Dijk.
Of course, the imposing stadiums such as the Lusail arena, which can hold almost 90,000 spectators, are still standing, mostly empty or isolated in the desert sand. They are memorabilia from a tournament of extravagance in a state brimming with wealth. The “Stadium 974”, named after Qatar’s country code and the number of containers used for construction, looks pretty empty from the outside. Workers are on duty. A fashion show was held there after seven World Cup games. The 974 containers are now to be dismantled. A park is planned at some point on the huge site.
On December 18th, the Argentines finished with the towering Lionel Messi in a magnificent final against the dethroned defending champions France with top scorer Kylian Mbappé. Numerous World Cup remnants are still visible from afar in Qatar. With the exception of the injured captain Manuel Neuer, the FC Bayern World Cup players are back at the place of glaring disappointment.
“We saw the stadium on the first day and said to ourselves, oh, there it was,” said Thomas Müller, referring to the Chalifa Stadium, where the German national team lost 2-1 to Japan. The arena is right next to the Aspire Zone, where the Munich pros are currently preparing for the second half of the season.
In addition to the Bayern fans who have traveled with them from Germany, a few people interested in football who live and work in Qatar can be found in the public units in the spectator seats. They then call out “Muller” or “Kimmich” when hoping for a selfie or autograph with Müller or Joshua Kimmich. Germany jerseys are available for half price in the Villagio Mall next door. But the many Messi shirts have long been cheaper in the clearance sale.
FC Bayern could remain closely linked to Qatar in the future. Then when the Munich bosses, despite all the debates about human and labor rights, should extend the contract with Qatar Airways, which expires in the summer and is frowned upon by some of their fans. CEO Oliver Kahn and Marketing Director Andreas Jung explore the conditions on site during the eleventh winter training camp.
In the eyes of the world public
Did the World Cup change Qatar? For four weeks, the small country was the focus of world attention. The Europeans discussed human rights abuses and the appropriate captain’s armband. Fans from other parts of the world enjoyed a close quarters tournament. For Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the gigantic tournament expenses of allegedly 200 billion US dollars have obviously paid off.
Such was the tenor in the domestic media. For weeks, thousands of fans from Argentina, Morocco and Mexico shaped the colorful scene in the Souq Waqif, where the usual business and social activities are now taking place again. “Normal life is back,” says taxi driver Ebenezer.
He comes from Ghana and has been living in Qatar for seven years. In addition to his job, he was right in the middle of things as a World Cup volunteer. “We experienced the best World Cup, that helped the country,” said Ebenezer proudly. He was even allowed to watch a game in the stadium: Ghana vs Portugal. After the 2: 3 of his home country, he still scolds the referee.
In Caravan City, which served as a fan camp, the yellow entrance gate is still in the dust. Also a few caravans, water tanks and an empty supermarket container from the grocery chain “Al Meera”. At the entrances to the metro, the long lettering “Celebrate” is emblazoned. But Qatar’s football party is over. The emirate was not a football country before – and the World Cup has not made it one. Qatar’s national team lost three times and was eliminated.
Few viewers in the league
The Qatar Stars League is now playing in front of a few spectators again. The Al Shamal Stadium with the red towers, where Hansi Flick held the few secret training sessions for the DFB selection, is again the home of the Al Shamal Sports Club.
Teams, fans, FIFA, sponsors and media have all moved on. The focus of the Arab world is now on Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is consistently pursuing the goal of establishing the kingdom as a major sporting power. The move of five-time world footballer Cristiano Ronaldo (37) to the Saudi Pro League with Al-Nassr FC is an important PR tool.
Soccer is the national sport in Saudi Arabia. There is a fan culture. Even Argentina was defeated at the World Cup. The Saudis are copying the path of Qatar, whose sovereign wealth fund invested in Paris Saint-Germain in 2011. In 2021, Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund took over Premier League club Newcastle United. Crown Prince Salman (37) puts the kingdom in a targeted position – as a possible host of the next but one World Cup in 2030.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.