Of Success & Scandal: A look at post world cup Qatar

Of Success & Scandal: A look at post world cup Qatar


A sea of blue. A Bisht-clad Argentine cradling in his arms the highest honor this generation could afford him, an ever-lasting party, and bruised French egos. This is what heralded the end of a 28-day-long dream for Qatar and plunged it into the ensuing monotony and misery of quotidian existence.

While scandal, unwarranted scrutiny, controversy, and infamy have plagued the Qatari authorities, a sense of hope, emptiness, fondness, longing, and uncertainty lingers in the hearts and minds of the people of Qatar ever since the final.

The now emptying hotels, half-built flats, deserted metros, vacant market squares, and the exiting migrant labor tell a story contrary to the one impressed upon the people by the most expensive ad campaign in the history of this planet. So, in this matrix of a dream and reality, hope and pessimism, what lies in store for the post world cup Qatar? 


It all began a decade ago, in 2010, when FIFA announced Qatar as the host of the 2022 World Cup. Controversy ensued, and allegations flew by, with human rights organizations, individuals, and the western media accusing Qatar of severe human rights violations,  homophobic persecution, and inhumane treatment of migrant workers. Away from this mayhem, Qatar began becoming ‘world cup ready’. 

The Emir’s administration spent around $ 200 billion on infrastructure. Hotels, malls, and stadiums came about in this vast stretch of sandy isolation. Qatar built eight state-of-the-art stadiums, some of which could be dismantled and reconstructed, for they were sculpted shipping containers.

Over the decade, Qatar, powered by its abominably mistreated populace of migrant labor, continued to gear up for the arrival of an estimated one million fans. It introduced piecemeal reforms, ended the ‘Kafala’ system, eased certain restrictions for incoming tourists, and tried to spin the narrative about it by promoting the emirate as an exotic tourist destination. And finally, it hosted the World Cup this year. 

If you ask FIFA and the Qatari authorities, this world cup was a hit: a record TV audience, stellar revenue, and a burnished image. But three days later, when Doha is almost empty, and a large chunk of infrastructure would stay wasted, it begs the question if all this pompous spending spree was worth it. 


Messi Magic notwithstanding, the economics of this mega-sporting event has remained a messy affair. Contrary to what the Qatari authorities would like the world to believe, there are no pronounced or immediate economic benefits to hosting the world cup.

According to a recent paper from the University of Surrey in the UK, the economic benefits may also be a myth, with no immediate boost to the country. ‘Tis was evident even before the world cup concluded- 7,65,000 people visited Qatar in the first two weeks of the tournament, less than the expected 1.2 million, and empty buildings and underutilized infrastructure dotted its landscape.

Doha’s attempts to position itself as an alternative to Dubai’s commercial center and tourist attraction are deemed failures. Real Madrid will open a theme park next year, a fitting tribute to the world cup, not in Doha, but in Dubai. It is unclear how Doha plans to retain the attention of sponsors, tourists, and commerce giants. Once the winners fly out of the expansive Hamad International Airport, the world’s gaze will inevitably shift elsewhere.   

Brussel(s) Sprouts: 

The events that precipitated in Brussels were most unsavory to Qatar; being linked to a corruption scandal that rocked the European Union wasn’t exactly the kind of image-building exercise Qatar wished to undertake during the world cup.

With the world cup over and the world recuperating from its stupor, criticism of the nation’s complacency, conservative outlook, and devilish attitude towards women, homosexual and migrant rights will only gain traction, especially in light of the indictment filed in a US court accusing several FIFA officials of having accepted bribes to back Qatar’s claim in 2010. 

So, if Qatar wished to present a more accommodative, modern, palatable, and reform-friendly image of itself to the world, it has not succeeded. In the words of  Christina Phillipou, senior lecturer in sports finance at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, “However, if the whole purpose was to showcase Qatar to the world, in that sense I think there have been some less reputation-enhancing aspects. It’s been a very expensive ad campaign and I’m not sure it’s been an especially successful one.” 

The Road Ahead: 

While fans in Argentina gather for a victory parade and people in France riot, the average Dohan will try to absorb the memories this World Cup gave them. They will think of the cultures they interacted with, the characters they met, and the games they saw and will reminisce about the moments of footballing brilliance they witnessed.

As for the immense economic benefits that were to accrue and the image development at the international fora that were to happen, it is tough coming. Maybe the World Cup will give the necessary impetus to Qatar, or maybe it will not; either way, it won’t change the life of the Qatari people overnight. 

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