“Without a doubt, there are those who are instigating the attacks for ulterior motives only,” said Qatar’s former deputy prime minister.
Former deputy prime minister, Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah, slammed countries that have attacked Qatar for hosting the World Cup, in an interview with Al-Watan newspaper on Sunday.
The former deputy prime minister who is known for pioneering in the business, energy and science industries, given his various ministerial roles since 1972, said that “relations with those countries should be reconsidered after the World Cup,” adding that the attacks are born out of “ulterior motives” as opposed to genuine concerns.
Al Attiyah also disclosed some more personal sentiments upon reflecting on Qatar’s development as a nation, and their journey to hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022.
It started with a dream
Upon being asked whether he deemed the World Cup to be a dream or a reality that could be achieved, given his closeness to the Father Amir during his time in office, the former deputy prime minister responded with “I considered it a dream, and told the Father Amir at the time, may God protect him, that this is a dream everyone wishes for but I do not think that we will reach it.”
For his part, Al Attiyah was aware that for the most important and largest tournament in the world, there must be an integrated system comprising of stadiums, hotels, an underground network, a deeply embedded infrastructure as well as a network of flights to connect the country with the world – and Qatar at the time had only two five-star hotels.
The dream had its roots in the early 80s, where the senior official recalls Qatar’s hosting of the Asian Cup, as per the father Amir’s evergreen wish to host international sports tournaments. The country was apparently in a deep economic crisis, having difficulty in finding funding to host the tournament.
“There was little interest at the time in the AFC championship, because the global situation in that period did not put any interest in it, and major American and European companies were not interested in a championship that had no reward. Television broadcast was also not interested in buying the rights to a championship that did not have a great return, as well as large Asian countries such as Japan or India and others, football did not have that value, but rather had interests in other games such as baseball and cricket. And so we faced a challenge,” the former deputy prime minister said.
It was these challenges, according to Al Attiyah that further encouraged Qatar’s statesmen to develop the country and set particular goals for its improvement, in order to be ready to host the World Cup – one day.
Gas enters the equation
“We knew that the time for gas was coming, because the field has existed [in Qatar] since 1971, and it is the largest single gas field in the world, and because the field is not at a great depth, it is the lowest cost of extraction. His Highness the Father Emir was working on that file, and he was the one who chose me to take over the position of Minister of Energy and Industry”, the senior official told Al-Watan newspaper.
Further adding that Qatar “made a miracle and carried out giant projects in the field of gas that achieved very large returns,” allowing Qatari products to be largely exported to countries around the world, rendering the nation one of the richest in the world.
It is at this point, that the former deputy prime minister says they began “progressing” in the organisation of international sports tournaments, including the Olympics.
Attacks not done “in good faith”
“There is a strange, strange attack that suddenly appeared several weeks before the World Cup. It is true that we heard some attacks earlier, but in the recent period they have increased and western countries such as Germany, France and British newspapers have intervened,” the senior Qatari official told Al-Watan newspaper.
“Without a doubt, there are those who are instigating the attacks for [ulterior motives] only. I believe that Qatar will organise the most successful World Cup in the history of football, all the countries that organised the tournament in the past faced problems with security, infrastructure and stadiums, but the attack on Qatar in this way is strange,” the official added, emphasising that the attacks and concerns raised are not done in good faith.
The pioneer in Qatar’s political and energy sphere noted that the concern over migrant worker’s rights in Qatar by foreign entities is but “empty words” for him.
He stated that Qatar has opened its doors most for workers, embracing them and creating jobs for them, helping many homes in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.
“We live in a free world,” the former deputy prime minister said, “he who does not want to work can leave. No one is forced to work in a country that apparently oppresses workers.”
The former deputy prime minister went on to question their interference in such an “intrusive” manner, stating that Qatar does not impose its customs on anyone outside of its border – but rather leaves everyone to to their freedom, unlike some of its critics who “interfere in the personal freedoms of others such as banning the veil [for Muslim women] despite allowing nuns to wear it.”
Further noting the hypocrisy of the statements, the official went on to mention the “major violations” that exist in Europe today.
“[In Europe] there are […] mafia gangs that steal girls from Eastern Europe or elsewhere and force them to work through organised networks; in France with all due respect to them, at the time of the grape harvest they brought workers from Africa and other places and made them work for 18 hours straight, and even in Denmark, the Netherlands we hear of strange things happening that you would never see happen here [in Qatar].”
Al Attiyah frankly told Al-Watan that he “thinks these campaigns have nothing to do with the workers,” noting that he also doesn’t believe that the organisers of the campaigns have sympathy with migrant workers in the Gulf state, with the evidence being that many international bodies and organisations have come out and praised Qatar, including FIFA.
“So I was surprised when Blatter, the former president of the International Federation, participated in those campaigns, even though he was FIFA President and he announced the victory of Qatar’s bid for hosting. This in itself is strange, and I say that nothing about the campaign is innocent.”
A win for Qatar
In assessing the stages of development, challenges and hurdles the small Gulf nation has gone through to reach the final stages of preparation in hosting the biggest sporting tournament in the world, Al Attiyah believes that the World Cup, in itself, is a gain for Qatar.
“As many do not know Qatar, and when they come they will see the truth on the ground, and they will see that these campaigns against Qatar are political and not real,” he said.
“Our relations with the [attacking] countries must be reconsidered after the World Cup. They want to fail us after all the effort that was made and the sums that were spent. Unfortunately, there are parties who pay them huge sums of money to attack Qatar, at a time when Qatar is witnessing great progress on various levels and topping global indicators in many global fields, such as health, education and security,” the senior official noted.
Al Attiyah reaffirmed the slogan that Qatari officials have repeated continuously to he press over the past decade, that Qatar “welcomes everyone and treats everyone with humane and ethical treatment without any abuse,” adding that he is proud that his country is hosting the World Cup, which has had a significant impact on the development of the country’s infrastructure and superstructure.
The former deputy prime minister finally noted that his country has played a “very important role in spreading peace around the world,” having a sizeable role in ending wars that lasted for years, such as that in Afghanistan.
“I believe that His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the amir of the country, deserves to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, because he gave peace more than any other leader in the world, and has made Doha the capital of peace”, Al Attiyah said.