Fans from across the world who spoke to Doha News both at the stadiums and fan zones commonly said that they have felt safe and welcomed at the World Cup.
Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al-Khater hit back at the “sugar coating of white supremacy” of a Sky Sports reporter who said the World Cup “should not have been held” in Doha.
In the video Al-Khater shared on Twitter, Sky Sports Chief Reporter Kaveh Solhekol said that the tournament should not have taken place in Doha, despite what he said was “wonderful” football and “incredible” final.
Solhekol went on to note his realisation that football is not limited to Western Europe, followed by his judgment that while “the Arab world deserves the World Cup”, he was still not sure whether Qatar was worthy of hosting the major event.
Clapping back at Solhekol’s remarks, Al-Khater said, “Congrats Mr Columbus 4 discovering the old world.”
“And the best sugar coating of white supremacy award goes to Mr Columbus for his role in (We swear we’re not racists). Try another trick mate this ain’t working,” she said.
Others on social media echoed Al-Khater’s sentiment, highlighting what they described as Solhekol’s hypocrisy.
“The fact that he kept repeating that football doesn’t belong to Western Europe, really makes me think they seriously think it only belongs to them,” a Twitter user said.
Another quote-tweeted Al-Khater and said,”We’ve all had enough even our state officials can’t be bothered anymore.”
Beyond Qatar, people from different parts of the world have also joined in taking aim at the reporter’s remarks, which they described as “racist”.
“I’ve never in my life seen a reporter with a bigger bias and visible racism than [Solhekol]. He’s got no credibility left whatsoever. Whenever he found a bag on the street he wanted to criticise Qatar’s ‘shady business’,” one person said.
Solhekol maintained his stance on Qatar’s hosting of the major sporting event despite the global praise that Doha received from officials and fans from all over the world. FIFA President Gianni Infantino had also described the World Cup Qatar 2022 as the best that has ever taken place.
The Sky Sports reporter had even met with senior officials leading the growth of Qatar’s sports industry, including PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
Solhekol’s remarks on Qatar despite the success of the tournament is not the first that the Gulf state has faced following a wider campaign mainly driven by the West over its hosting of the World Cup.
The criticism had evolved ever since Qatar made history in 2010 as the first Arab and Muslim nation to host the global sporting event, from its hot climate, alleged abuses of migrant workers’ rights and policies regarding the LGBTQ+ community.
Last month, Nasser Al-Khater, the Chief Executive Officer of Qatar 2022, said that the campaign against Qatar and its hosting of the World Cup is linked to seeing a non-European country take on the tournament.
“European countries feel they have monopoly over the World Cup. Europe has hosted 11 tournaments out of 22 tournaments, of course it refuses that a country like Qatar or an Arab Muslim country hosts a tournament like the World Cup,” Al-Khater told Al Jazeera Arabic in a televised interview before the event.
The Gulf state repeatedly said it has responded to the concerns by introducing reforms to its legislation, all of which have received global praise by rights groups including the UN’s International Labour Organisation, which has set up an office to oversee the changes in Qatar.
Despite this, headlines which have been repeatedly slammed by officials as “sensationalist” and “misleading” have continued to emerge across western press.
The World Cup in numbers
Fans from across the world who spoke to Doha News both at the stadiums and fan zones commonly said that they felt safe and welcomed at the World Cup, noting particularly the smooth transportation experience.
Qatar successfully hosted 64 matches with 32 teams within 29 days and welcomed 1.4 million visitors. The total match attendance reached 3.4 million, an average of 53,000 fans per match, representing 96% attendance during the tournament.
Metro and Lusail tram passengers surpassed 17 million as 530,000 visitors enjoyed daily entertainment activities.
In the group stages alone, Qatar witnessed the highest attendance of fans during the 2022’s World Cup group stages in FIFA’s history.
Beyond Qatar, more than five billion TV viewers across the globe watched the World Cup.
Doha saw the groundbreaking attendance of 88,966 fans at the Argentina vs. Mexico game at Lusail Stadium on 26 November, marking the highest such figure in FIFA’s history since 1994.
The match that broke a new FIFA record saw Argentina triumph over Mexico at 2-0, with the greatest of all time Lionel Messi saving his team from elimination.
Meanwhile, the England vs. USA game was the most watched men’s football match on US television. The tough face-off on 25 November ended with a shocking 0-0 draw.
During the group stages, Qatar saw an attendance of 2.45 million spectators, an average of 96% occupancy. The figure is higher than Russia’s, a much bigger country, which saw 2.17 million fans when it hosted the tournament in 2018.
“It’s been a fantastic World Cup, with groundbreaking figures and memorable moments both on and off the pitch. Fans are having an amazing time in Doha, and the whole world is following with excitement on TV as new records [are] set every day,” Colin Smith, FIFA COO World Cup, said last month.