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Qatar 2022: a wonderful festival of football

Qatar 2022: a wonderful festival of football

2 December 2010 is a date of great significance in Qatar. On that day, our country was chosen to host the football World Cup in 2022. On a personal level, I was lucky enough to experience the awarding of the tournament up close, as I was ambassador to Switzerland at the time and the vote was held in Zurich. From the outset, both the Qatari government and its citizens were confident in the chances of a solid, serious project carried out with rigour and professionalism.

Since that moment, we have invested all our efforts in ensuring that the Qatar World Cup is a magnificent celebration of sport, an event that helps to build bridges between countries and cultures, and an opportunity for growth and for the future, not just for our nation, but for the whole of the Arab world. During his recent visit to Spain, Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary general of the Qatar 2022 organising committee, underlined the excellent progress of the preparations, declaring that the World Cup will be the most compact in the tournament's history, with unprecedented ease of travel between venues. The economic and infrastructural legacy that it will leave will be accompanied by a hugely important human legacy, which is a cornerstone of the philosophy of all who are working with their sights set on 2022.

Faced with such an enormously beneficial, promising state of affairs, a reaction of support and shared excitement from all of Qatar's neighbouring countries was what would have been expected. To offer a recent example, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which culminated in Andrés Iniesta's thrilling winner and Spain's richly deserved victory, comes to mind. A few years before that memorable final, when the Republic of South Africa was selected as the host nation, several states in the region and across the continent shared in the joy that came with an event that placed Africa at the centre of world sport. The shows of solidarity and union between neighbouring countries were a constant both throughout the preparations and during the weeks in which the World Cup was held. As well as the example of Africa, we've also observed similar situations when the event has taken place in Europe, Asia or Latin America.

It's well known that comparisons are odious. However, the attitude to the Qatar World Cup adopted by some of our neighbours in the Gulf is extremely surprising. On 8 October last year, a high-ranking official in the United Arab Emirates posted a tweet in which he stated that the Qatar crisis would end if the country were no longer the 2022 World Cup hosts. These comments are clear evidence that, far from showing support in a situation that will be of undoubted benefit to the whole region, some states have opted to create a climate of tension in the area. Such a state of affairs acquired a global dimension on 5 June last year, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt made the unilateral decision to break off diplomatic relations with Qatar and begin an illegal, inhumane blockade that continues seven months later. This surprise move has the ultimate goal of interfering in the domestic and foreign politics of a country which, thanks to the work it has done in recent years, has developed a model to be followed in the Arab world and boasts the recognition of the international community. There is no escaping that the 2022 World Cup may have been one of the elements that have led to the reaction of these countries, which, far from seeing the award of the tournament as representing a shared dream, one bringing many opportunities for our young people and a wonderful chance to show our region to the world, suffer from the jealousy of seeing how Qatar is attracting the attention of an international audience. Perhaps they forget that Qatar's World Cup bid was underpinned by its identity as an Arab, Muslim country and that the tournament is not the exclusive 'property' of our nation, but will serve to boost the economy, the business world and the tourism industry of the whole region.

Our country does not look to envy, rivalry or battles of egos, but rather has shown its preference for dialogue and negotiation. Sport should unite; it should offer an opportunity to forge closer relationships and be a symbol of harmony. For years, Qatar has proved that it stands up for the universality of sport. It has hosted numerous regional and global events, it has created the prestigious Aspire Academy, it has driven forward the television channel beIN Sport and it has embraced emerging talent.

Soccer is not about division, but about togetherness. We can only hope for a change of attitude among all those who seek to burn bridges rather than build them. As far as we're concerned, all citizens of every country, culture or religion are invited to join the wonderful festival of football that the 2022 World Cup is sure to be.

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