Qatar: 12 months to impress World Cup fans after right decision?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Qatar 2022 World Cup bidding process has been plunged into even greater scrutiny

Qatar has 12 months to convince football fans it is the right choice for the 2022 World Cup.

A year ago, the mood was one of relief after the vote for the tournament’s hosts was finally settled.

We live in a world now where Fifa, European and Asian football will tell you Qatar was the right choice.

But it’s a false economy to say we have been told what we want to hear.

There is no doubt that the country is keen to show itself is a World Cup-ready nation; ramping up investment, increasing staff numbers and ensuring Fifa meets its own deadlines.

The 2022 World Cup is, in part, about Qatar looking forward and a new day.

But as we expect a bumper crowd for the Spain vs Portugal match in an Emirati capital and escape from the summer heat, it’s not hard to imagine the odd disgruntled supporter as they consider the future of the sport there.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Scaffolding has been erected around stadiums in 2022 for the massive investment

Watching this national tragedy unfold with the weekly drip feed of news and speculation has been hard for those of us associated with Qatar to watch.

We’re watching it because we can’t avoid it.

Since last year, one of the most damning reports was published about the bidding process, alleging bid officials and Fifa experts bid to favour Qatar for the tournament – and awarding it to Russia – even though Brazil, Japan and South Korea, all Asian nations, also bid.

Then, this year’s report from the FBI turned the 2018 and 2022 World Cups into major scandals after US authorities raided the homes of four Fifa officials.

Three of those officials had been part of the 2018 and 2022 vote to award the tournament to Russia and Qatar.

Gianni Infantino appears to have paid the price as the president of European football federation Uefa.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Infantino says he hopes for a World Cup in Qatar in 2022

Infantino’s first public statement on the most recent scandal was an unusually low-key and at times less than pugnacious stance.

When a reporter asked him if a tournament in Qatar would mark the end of his reign as president of Fifa, Infantino’s response was, simply, “No”.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Saudi Arabia has ruled out moving the 2022 World Cup from Qatar

Meanwhile, other controversies continue to pile up.

While all this chaos and disruption occurs, Qatar is in for the biggest soccer World Cup in history with 120,000 fans expected to descend on the country in November and December.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Disgraced Fifa official Jack Warner – who was awarded a job as a World Cup sponsor after the vote – is lobbying for South Africa to host the 2022 tournament

Qatar is desperate to stress that every event will happen on time and will be, or at least appear to be, in sync with public and media sentiment.

However, the build-up is still viewed by some as a shambles.

The Qatar 2022 organising committee, appointed by Fifa in 2010, is the only entity running these events – the Chinese firm set up as an English intermediary in the lead-up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia is now cut out of the picture.

There is no way back, says a senior member of the Qatari organising committee.

That said, Brazil, Russia and South Korea had complained that Russian preparations could not match World Cup standards.

Even FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura was once quite critical of Fifa’s handling of the Russian bid.

But FIFA’s submission to the Fifa Council back in December did not contain any criticism of Qatar – nor did it mention a report which alleged its own staff interfered with a potential vote.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Jack Warner attended the vote to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups

On the contrary, the conclusion was FIFA had not learnt lessons.

It said: “Nothing has changed. There is still plenty of time left to construct a team that can deliver a successful staging of a global sporting event.”

Do Qatar’s own enthusiasm for football – from breaking new ground to developing the game in remote communities – belie the difficulties?

And will football fans around the world be convinced enough to support them?

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