Qatar makes World Cup debut in a controversial tournament of firsts


Doha, Qatar
CNN

There have been 21 editions of the men’s World Cup since its inauguration in 1930, but Qatar 2022 will be a tournament like no other.

Ever since it was announced as the host city almost 12 years ago, it was always destined to be a World Cup of firsts.

From extreme weather to the tournament’s debut, CNN takes a look at the ways this year’s competition will break new ground.

This will be the first time Qatar’s men’s national team will participate in a World Cup final, having failed to qualify through conventional means in the past.

FIFA, the sport’s governing body, allows a host country to take part in a World Cup without having to go through the qualifying rounds, meaning the tiny Gulf state can now test itself against the best in world football.

Qatar is relatively new to the sport, having played its first official match in 1970, but the country has fallen in love with the beautiful game and the national team has steadily improved.

In 2004, the Aspire Academy was founded with the hope of finding and developing all of Qatar’s most talented athletes.

In recent years, this has reaped rewards for its soccer team. Qatar won the 2019 Asian Cup, capping off one of the most memorable runs in the tournament’s history, conceding just one goal throughout the tournament.

Seventy percent of the squad that won the trophy came through the academy and that number has only increased going into the World Cup.

Coached by Spaniard Felix Sanchez, Qatar will be looking to surprise people and face a relatively tame group alongside Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.

Qatar will host a surprise at Qatar 2022.

The World Cup has always been held in May, June or July, but Qatar 2022 will break from such tradition – more out of necessity.

Temperatures in Qatar can reach over 40 degrees Celsius during those months, so with that in mind, the tournament was moved to a cooler time.

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However, winter in Qatar is a relative term with temperatures still around 30 degrees, but organizers hope to combat the heat with multiple methods, such as high-tech cooling systems in stadiums.

The change in tournament dates has wreaked havoc with some of the world’s biggest domestic leagues.

All of Europe’s top leagues have had to work a winter break into their schedules, meaning busy fixture lists before and after the tournament.

This will be the first World Cup played in November and December.

One of FIFA’s rationales for awarding the rights to Qatar was the ability to take the tournament to a new part of the world.

None of the previous 21 World Cups have been held in an Islamic country and this month’s tournament will be a chance for the region to celebrate its growing love for the game.

However, it definitely raises some issues that the organizers have had to address. For many fans, drinking has, and will continue to be, a large part of the experience of such tournaments.

In Qatar, however, it is illegal to be seen drunk in public, which has forced organizers to find creative ways around the issue.

As a result, alcohol will only be served in designated fan parks around Doha and there will be separate areas for fans to sober up before and after matches.

Josh Cavallo attends the 2022 Attitude Awards at The Roundhouse on October 12, 2022 in London, England.

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Another question mark surrounding the tournament is how the country will be able to cope with the expected influx of one million visitors, given that it is the smallest country to host the World Cup, with a population of just under three million.

As a result, all eight stadiums are in and around Doha, the capital, and are all within an hour’s drive of each other.

Organizers say travel infrastructure – including buses, subways and rental cars – will be able to cope with the added pressure.

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One benefit of the short distances between the venues is that fans will be able to see up to two games in one day. Should traffic be polite?

Because of its size, Qatar has also had to be smart with its accommodation. Two cruise ships, MSC Poesia and MSC World Europa, are docking in Doha to provide support to hotels.

Fans will have the opportunity to stay on cruise ships in Doha, Qatar.

Both ships will offer the usual cruise ship experience, but fans will venture no further than the 10-minute bus ride into the heart of Doha.

For those fans prone to seasickness, organizers have also built three ‘Fan Villages’ which will provide a place to stay on the outskirts of the city.

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These include a variety of accommodation – including caravans, portacabins and even camping experiences – and all are within reasonable distances of the sites.

Also, for those who can afford a little more, there will be luxury yachts moored in Doha harbor that can offer a place to sleep at, let’s face it, an extortionate price.

FIFA has pledged to make Qatar 2022 the first carbon-neutral World Cup, as world football’s governing body continues its pledge to make the sport more environmentally friendly.

It, along with Qatar, pledged to offset carbon emissions by investing in green projects and buying carbon credits – a common practice used by businesses to “offset” their carbon footprint.

Qatar, the world’s biggest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide, has said it will keep emissions low and remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as the tournament produces by investing in projects that will capture greenhouse gases.

For example, it will plant the seeds for the world’s largest turf farm, planting 679,000 shrubs and 16,000 trees.

The plants will be located in stadiums and elsewhere around the country and are supposed to absorb thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

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However, critics have accused the organizers of “greening” the event – a term used to refer to those who try to cover their damage to the environment and climate with green initiatives that are either false, misleading or exaggerated.

Carbon Market Watch (CMW), a non-profit advocacy group specializing in carbon pricing, says Qatar’s calculations are grossly underestimated.

Qatar 2022 will also see female referees refereeing a men’s World Cup match for the first time.

Yamashita Yoshimi, Salima Mukansanga and Stephanie Frappart have all been named among the 36 officials selected for the tournament.

They will be joined by Neuza Back, Karen Diaz Medina and American Kathryn Nesbitt, who will travel to the Gulf country as assistants.

Frappart is arguably the most famous name on the list as she wrote her name into the history books in 2020 by becoming the first woman to take charge of a men’s Champions League match.

Referee Yoshimi Yamashita will make her Men's World Cup debut.

But looking to learn from her in Qatar is Rwanda’s Mukansanga, who told CNN she was excited to embrace the challenge of umpiring at a major tournament.

“I would watch what the referees are doing, just to copy the best things they are doing so that one day I can be at the World Cup like this,” she said, adding that her family was looking forward to see taking it out on the field.

It has not yet been decided when the women will referee their first match of the tournament, but there will be some new rules to apply.

For the first time, teams will be able to use up to five substitutes and managers can now choose from a squad of 26 players, instead of the usual 23.

Qatar 2022 is set to begin on November 20. You can follow CNN’s coverage of the World Cup here.

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