'Proud' Qatar enjoys ultimate prize

Qatar 2022 bid chairman determined to enjoy improbable feat of being awarded World Cup as country's ambition mounts.

    Al-Thawadi has guided the tiny Gulf state of Qatar to a monumental achievement in hosting World Cup 2022 [EPA]

    Shivering on the steps of a Zurich hotel stood a man whose life and country had just changed forever.

    For Hassan Al-Thawadi, Friday was the first day of the rest of his life. Or the next 12 years at least. The CEO of Qatar's World Cup bid would be leaving Switzerland carrying a prize few would have predicted.

    "I am determined to enjoy this," he said, gulping in a last few breaths of winter air before heading to the airport.

    "A friend of mine is the son of the old football coach Don Revie. He said the one thing his father regretted was not taking time out to occasionally enjoy what he'd achieved. We have to start work right away, we know that. But we should also be proud of what we've done so far."

    The rarefied atmosphere of their mountain hotel could hardly be more in contrast to the country that's about to undergo the mother of all World Cup makeovers.

    Qatar doesn't do mountains and it certainly doesn't do snow. But the point about Qatar is that it probably could do if it really set its heart on such a project.

    Two years ago the idea of World Cup heading to the Gulf seemed fanciful.

    Changed forever

    But an imaginative and exciting bid, backed by a few billion dollars of oil and gas cash, has just changed footballing geography forever.

    Qatar's government has placed sport at the centre of its strategy to raise their country's profile and influence.

    "We have to start work right away, we know that. But we should also be proud of what we've done so far"

    Hassan Al-Thawadi, Qatar 2022 CEO

    There are few more elevating stages than the one their nation will now be performing on.

    The morning after that night of nights there was still an underlying sense of disbelief among the bid team.

    Their hearts had momentarily sunk when Russia was named the host for 2018. That was Fifa's one unpredictable choice of the evening, they thought. They need not have worried.

    When details of the voting process emerged, Qatar's power within that 22 voting panel was evident.

    They came within a single vote of winning outright in the first round.

    Support base

    And while it did take three further rounds of box ticking to eventually give them a majority, such was Qatar's support base that their win was never seriously in doubt.

    Qatar's victory should also be viewed as a victory for their countryman Mohammed Bin Hammam, the President of the Asian Football Confederation.

    There was never any question as to which way this member of the Fifa executive committee would be voting.

    He very publicly backed Qatar throughout the process.

    It was a tactic that may have annoyed other bidding countries from Asia but it was at least refreshing in its honesty.

    That he and Qatar were then backed by so many other voters underlines his huge sphere of influence. It is not impossible that in future years Qatar will be home to a Fifa President as well as a World Cup.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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