The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 was seen as a celebration of the Global South, the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), Hassan al Thawadi said at the 2023 Global Security Forum.
The World Cup 2022 pushed away various stereotypes about the Arab world and “in particular, dare I say I think it was much more a celebration of the Global South,” the top official said on Wednesday.
“It was probably the most inclusive tournament to happen today.”
Al Thawadi went on to list the pronounced and “very strong” representation of African nations during the month-long tournament: “People from Senegal, people from Ghana, people from Cameroon were constantly seen in the stadiums supporting their teams.”
‘Sense of ownership’
The tournament was encompassed with Arab unity and ownership, with many Arabs feeling a sense of pride as a result of the successful hosting of tournament in an Arab and Muslim country for the first time ever.
“A lot of [Arabs] also felt represented and I think what it did is showcase an Arab nation’s ability to host the tournament at the highest level, again, executed operational excellence at the highest level,” Al Thawadi said.
“The Arab world here from all the fans and their engagement walked away with a sense of pride. Without exception, every person that I spoke to, especially the Arab diaspora felt a sense of ownership. This was their tournament, they felt a sense of pride about what we all collectively were able to.”
The official further reinforced the culture of the people of Qatar and Arabs that was displayed, which contributed to changing the perceptions of many visitors from around the world.
“And more importantly, [we did] not only deliver in terms of operational excellence, but the welcoming nature where we were able to show the world and part of our culture that not everybody gets to see on a daily basis,” he added.
“Sporting platforms, if used correctly, go a long way towards bringing people together.”
Qatar seeks to pass the knowledge of hosting the World Cup onto other major sporting events as well as major events in general, Al Thawadi noted.
“I think the experience that we’ve gained particularly during the construction phase […] the lessons that we learned in terms of applying it during the tournament itself and how we were able to ensure that we had strict adherence to enforcement and audits are valuable lessons which can be put forth as a successful exemplar lesson for future sporting events”, Al Thawadi said, offering the examples of UEFA Euro 2024 as well as the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Regards the security of the World Cup 2022, Al Thawadi pointed to a “simple statistic” that came out during the tournament which can be seen as a testament to the high-level safety of the unique Qatar 2022.
“There was not a single arrest of English fans […] Now that’s a testimonial towards the fans and towards the safeness of the environment that Qatar created and harboured”, he noted.
“It is also a testimony towards the approach the security team took towards ensuring that everybody feels safe, everybody feels secure and able to celebrate,” he added.
This statistic comes against the backdrop of high arrest numbers of English fans. Around 2,200 England fans received football travel bans for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and about 3,200 people were prohibited from going to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.
The famous chants that went around during the tournament, which became the slogan for the underdogs where fans would shout “where is” followed by the team name or team player of the opposing side. This was famously seen among Saudi fans which arose when Saudi Arabia won against Argentina during the group stages.
The chant was also seen shared between Argentinian fans screaming “where is Saudi Arabia”.
It “became a calling, a song of victory for a lot of the underdogs,” Al Thawadi said, adding that “they still were able to celebrate together.”
Such instances speak volume of the safe environemnt fans were placed in to celebrate together.
Simple teasing slogans or chants that would normally drastically escalate in countries, with the UK being an exceptional example, saw a different reaction in Qatar 2022 with fans such as those of Saudi and and Argentina witnessed dancing hand in hand after their respective matches.
Security at Qatar 2022
Security was a central element in the decade-long preparation for the World Cup, which saw Qatar partner with defence entities from several countries in the region and beyond.
The World Cup in Doha was widely praised for its security and safety, in which a friendly atmosphere allowed for families to attend without concerns.
Qatari authorities implemented a ban on the sale of alcohol near or in football stadiums, a move that received praise across communities, particularly families and women.
Female fans attending the tournament said the move helped alleviate the hostile atmosphere associated with the game. As a result, British Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the UK should “drop ideas of reintroducing alcohol in the stands” in light of the fan experience in Qatar.
The atmosphere in Qatar was “passionate but friendly”, Robert, who oversees football policing in the UK, said during the World Cup 2022, The Times reported.
Speaking to Doha News during the tournament, fans said they felt “extremely” safe particularly when compared to previous World Cups where they were “too afraid” to hold their belongings in their hands freely.
Fans also said they were not worried about wearing bags on their backs as they were content that pickpocketing would not occur in Qatar.
An international spectator told Doha News that he would not hesitate to take a walk in the streets of Qatar during the night due to how safe he feels in the country.