In two days, the small and oil and natural gas-rich Arabian Gulf nation Qatar will host the first Football World Cup of the region and the second organised in the Asian Continent.
It is such a gigantic achievement for not only Qatar but also for the entire Arab world and Asia as well and thus deserves a thorough look-back at the country’s rise from a sporting outpost to an oasis for sports in the desert — a prominent organiser of sports in the region.
The lookback starts with Prashant, who has more than a two-decade-long journey as a journalist, joining the region’s most prominent daily Gulf Times around the time Qatar was transforming itself both as a sporting nation and Doha as a world-class city for the Asian Games in 2006.
And it will take you to the milestones in Qatar’s history as a nation and its emergence as mecca of sports — eventually culminating in winning the hosting rights for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and preparing for the biggest-ever event hosted by the region. It also reminds us of how the tiny nation hosted some of the biggest stars the world of tennis and golf has ever seen; coming of motor racing to the region with Qatar hosting both the MotoGP and Formula 1; mega football matches; the Doha Asian Games in 2006 and eventually to hosting the biggest purveyors of what Pele famously described as “Jogo Bonito — The Beautiful Game”.
The book as it describes itself is an insider’s view of the country’s ambitious plans for the FIFA 2022 World Cup, and the journey that led them to become the first World Cup hosts in the Arab world.
It also dwells into the country’s journey from coming together of desert tribes to the pearl divers to being custodians of the third-largest gas reserve in the world and many fascinating facets to the nation. The book reveals how an influx of wealth transformed the country’s aspirations to become a global powerhouse. To achieve recognition and regional dominance, Qatar strategically made sport its prime focus before delivering the seemingly impossible and winning the World Cup bid in 2010. There were many stumbling blocks along the way, but Qatar stood firm.
With the eyes of the world turning to Qatar for World Cup 2022, the nation realises this event will be pivotal to how the world perceives it. Knowing Qatar’s ability to host events with panache, prepare to be blown away!
The book appears an honest look back at a nation’s journey to becoming a sports paradise, and also looks at some warts on the underbelly — like the controversies over buying success in sports by weaning away stars from Africa and neighbouring countries, especially for the 2006 Asian Games in Doha; the controversies surrounding the bid win and a Qatari Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed bin Hammam getting banned; migrant issues taking centre-stage with the stadium and other infrastructure; coming under fire from human rights organisations the world over in the limited freedom of speech and expression that the geopolitics of the region provides.
It looks at the Bedouin tribes’ journey from pearl hunting to striking black gold, playing football in the deserts of Dukhan, near the oil fields, and the emergence of Qatar as a sporting powerhouse.
It’s a journey most people around the world don’t know but should know as sports become the lingua franca of the world.
Chronicling the rise and emergence of a country takes painstaking efforts and hard work — just like Qatar put in to organise the mega-events.