FIFA’s award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was controversial – and it’s unlikely to resemble any tournament we’ve seen before The FIFA World Cup in Russia has been full of surprises. From Iran’s goalkeeper saving Ronaldo’s penalty, and Germany’s early exit, to the host nation reaching the quarter-finals and the thrilling second half of Belgium versus Japan. But as Russia 2018 comes to an end, many are now looking ahead to Qatar, the first tournament to take place in the region, which kicks off in November 2022. Qatar is one of the world’s smaller countries at 11,586 sq km, occupying a smaller area than the UK’s Falkland Islands or the US state of Connecticut, and is certainly the smallest to host the 88-year-old tournament. It will also be noteworthy for several other reasons.
WATCH MATCHES IN AIR CONDITIONS STADIUMS
Qatar has said it will build eight stadiums for its World Cup – each costing approximately $8bn to $10bn – with every one of them air-conditioned. Some of its stadiums are winning architectural accolades. The Al-Rayyan stadium, for example, was awarded “stadium design of the year” by the World Stadium Congress in 2016, while its Ras Abu Aboud stadium in Doha will be made of modified shipping containers.
WINTER WORLD CUP
Qatar 2022 will not be the first “winter World Cup” as some media observers have claimed: tournaments in southern hemisphere countries such as Uruguay (1930), Chile (1962) and South Africa (2010) have all been held during those countries’ winter months, which usually fall during June, July and August. But no tournament has taken place as late in the year as Qatar’s, with the first match to play on 21 November and the final itself on 18 December, Qatar’s national day. The decision has been taken to avoid the country’s boiling summer climate, when the mercury can hit the mid-40s, compared with an average of 25 degrees during December.
ALCOHOL ZONES TO BE CREATED
World Cup football fans enjoyed their alcohol at Russia 2018, with some breweries unable to meet demand. In Qatar, drinking alcohol in public places is a crime. But for the World Cup, Doha has agreed to set up “specific faraway places” for people to drink beer. It means football fans will only be able to drink alcohol in controlled sites that are an hour away from stadiums.
FIFA WILL GET BIGGER AND BETTER
The first World Cup, in 1930, featured just 13 teams. It rose to 16 teams in 1934, followed by 24 in 1982 and 32 in 1998. FIFA has decided that 48 teams will compete in 2026, when the World Cup is scheduled to take place in North America, hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The number of matches will also increase from 64 to 80. Qatari officials have also hinted at the prospect of introducing 48 teams for the 2022 World Cup, although this has yet to be confirmed at time of writing. Regardless of the number of teams, one thing is certain: Qatar, as the host nation, will for the first time ever qualify for sport’s biggest tournament.