Friday, December 3, 2010

Qatar 2022: What Football Fans Should Expect

Dec. 2, 2010 - Zurich, California, Switzerland - Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, holds the World Cup trophy recieved from FIFA President Joseph Blatter (r) after the announcement of Qatar hosting the 2022 soccer World Cup at Messezentrum in Zurich, Switzerland, on 02 December 2010. K66982AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Let's admit it, from the perspective of the average football fan, the idea of holding the World Cup finals in a country controlled by Sharia law (though the civil judicial system also contains the Adlia court with roots in British common law). The World Cup finals, from the vantage point of the typical football fan, involves drinking numerous alcoholic beverages, the presence of many scantily clad women, and the consumption of numerous pork products. All three of these, and many other things, including homosexuality and drug use, are either illegal or highly restricted in Qatar.

For many football fans, attending the World Cup finals is akin to a pilgrimage, and something that many football fans only attend once in their respective lifetimes. The act of attending the World Cup finals, for some fans, is the culmination of years of planning and saving money. So, when it comes to choosing which World Cup finals to attend, how likely will the average football fan choose a finals that does not include this:

June 27, 2010 - 06097186 date 27 06 2010 Copyright imago Geisser Football World Cup 2010 Public Viewing in the Hometown from German coach Jogi Loew Picture Bierstimmung before the Clubhouse FC Schoenau Germany the Brother from Jogi Loew Peter Loew is the Owners 27 June 2010 Football men World Cup National team international match DFB ger Public Viewing Party supporters Spectators Sch  nau Home Home Vdig xsk 2010 horizontal premiumd Alcohol Beer Euphoria supporter Fans Tierpark Lignano supporters Football Patriotism Peter Loew World Cup World Cup.

Or this:

July 02, 2010 - Rio De Janeiro, Brazil - epa02233615 Fans of Brazilian soccer team cheer at the Fifa Fan Fest on the beach of Copacabana, Brazil, before the FIFA World Cup 2010 quarter final match against Netherlands at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, 02 July 2010.

Since FIFA announced its decision to award the 2022 World Cup finals to Qatar, there has been some discussion about whether or not this will result in some cross-cultural opportunities to exchange ideas and maybe, just maybe cause Qatar to change some of its more discriminatory laws. I note that I have not heard any discussion of westerners adopting Qatar's ways of governing.

But let's be realistic here folks, don't expect Qatar to change the laws that its citizens and guest workers live under. (Please note that by "guest worker" I mean the workers who are primarily from Asia and do the manual labor necessary for the country to survive.) Instead, I expect that Qatar will find a way to easily accommodate the needs and desires of the average of football fan in a manner that will not require Qatar to change or adopt its laws for the long haul.

Accommodating the needs of westerners is nothing new to Middle Eastern countries that rely on Sharia law. The reason that a country like Qatar can accommodate the financial investment required to hold the World Cup finals is all thanks to oil. And thanks to that oil, emirates like Qatar have a long history of housing western workers in compounds where Sharia law is not strictly enforced.

I predict that Qatar will create massive "fan zones" that are much larger then the fan zones of the past because they will include hotels, bars, and restaurants established solely for the purpose of accommodating the football fans there for the World Cup finals. In these fan zones, visitors will be able to drink copiously and women won't have to worry about whether they are showing too much skin.

While the businesses in these fan zones will be owned by the Qatar government or Qatar citizens, all of the workers will be guest workers from places like Vietnam, the Philippines, India etc. Therefore, Dutka will be able to drink all the beer she wants and Prairie Rose can sport her World Cup themed belly dancer outfits without offending any citizens of Qatar.

Mind you, World Cup visitors will not be locked into these fan zones, they will be allowed to visit "real" Qatar, but, when they do so, they will be expected to comply with Sharia law. As for the stadiums, don't be surprised if Qatar citizens are segregated in their own area, and said area will be comprised of men and only men.

In other words, I think Qatar will create a western "Disney Land" for all the foreigners attending the 2022 World Cup finals, and said foreigners will only experience the real Qatar should they choose that option.

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