At the end of it all, Qatar’s emir, Lionel Messi, donned a flimsy black robe, which seemed to be the ultimate emblem of how a host nation whose side was so bad could recognize him as one of their own.
The man in question, who had crowned a player in the tournament that seemed to have been organized for him at times, looked unfazed but just accepted this global image and went out looking for the World Cup. He took off the cloak after he lifted it.
The Qataris have long bought both Messi and Kylian Mbappe parts of their combined holding in Paris Saint-Germain, so even in the World Cup final, this wealthy spot in the desert knew it could claim victory. Both of them contributed greatly to the Final For All Ages.
Qatar’s emir, Lionel Messi, donned a flimsy black robe after Sunday’s World Cup final
Messi lifted the cup while wearing the traditional dress called “Bisht” after Argentina’s victory over France on penalties.
Finally embracing Prince Gianni Infantino, the country’s chief cheerleader here, who can now anticipate all the riches of life in Doha, which he has made home. There were precarious moments leading up to this final – metro crowds thronged in dangerous numbers – but Qatar will feel like they have taken off staging the World Cup without disaster, having scraped away anything threatening their façade of immaculateness and perfection.
When a Filipino forklift truck driver became the first of two people to die during the process of making this bid, Qatar Organizing Committee Chairman Nasser Al-Khater said it should not be the subject of a press conference. “Death is a natural part of life,” he said. “We are a little disappointed that journalists have exacerbated this false narrative (about) the workers’ deaths.”
When it became clear that the ‘security’ force assembled for the tournament could not keep up with the numbers of fans arriving from Morocco – the nation the Qataris had taken over when their team was bombed – Qatar instructed that country’s national airline to cancel all scheduled flights. To bring the fans to the semi-finals.
Messi and Kylian Mbappe contributed abundantly to the Final for the Ages in Qatar on Sunday
There was no explanation for this. Just as there was none, more than 100 words of PR sweet talk, when I asked Kathryn Butt, Sportsmail reporter here, why ticketed Moroccan fans were being kept out of Spain’s quarter-finals.
The ‘optics’, as PR folks like to call it, Al-Khater’s bland indifference to the death of the Filipino driver was despicable, though it became abundantly clear that the Qataris could care less if Western journalists saw it that way. .
How the rest of the Middle East views this Qatar is all that matters to the hosts. Creating a separate space in the region creates a sense of prestige, influence, and identity in the face of larger, assertive neighbors—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt—who have been troubled by the largesse and ambition of this nascent nation.
The Qataris knew they could win with PSG stars Messi and Mbappe (above)
When Russia and Brazil staged the previous two tournaments, there was something human at play. The desire of the people of those countries to welcome the world and talk about their lands.
Not so for the Qataris. In the march to the end, this country has waited 12 years to host it, African migrant workers and South Asian workers are holding foam fingers, smiling and welcoming. Some of them, understandably, are not fluent in English, so some of the megaphones they carry have messages played in a continuous loop. In one place, the pretense was abandoned. A microphone excitedly announcing ‘The stadium this way; the metro this way’ was laid out on the sand.
These greeters, with their turquoise “Event Team” crests, were migrants, flown in from Kathmandu Kerala and all points east. A group at a metro station yesterday described how they will be back home this week, at the end of a two-month contract to work ten-hour shifts. their salary? “It is not permissible for us to say,” said a web designer from Nepal.
Cases related to the mistreatment of migrant workers before and during the World Cup were highlighted
It was also the last day for the migrant “heroism security forces” workers on the approach to Lusail, many of whom were planning to return to work as helicopter administrative crew at a local military base. It was they who were left to enforce a Qatari rulebook that included alienating fans who dared don what looked like a rainbow wristband.
American journalist Grant Wahl, whose death while covering the Netherlands’ quarter-final match against Argentina will always be with those in attendance that night, told me how conflicted he felt when this migrant workforce tried to stop him from entering Wales’ match against England. Rainbow shirt. It was the Qatari Grant who wanted to challenge the subordinates of this stratified society starkly, not their own. But they are nowhere to be found.
Much of what we saw was superficial gloss and what little of it seemed to be, from the bloated attendance to the fake fans and fan villages, still under construction a week into the tournament. It was for others – Albiceleste’s entourage and the incoming Moors – to enliven this contest.
American journalist Grant Wahl wanted to challenge the Qataris with his rainbow jersey
Qatar wants us to remember its great pronouncements of fortune, such as the ‘Lucille Boulevard’ where some of the early arrivals for the final were guided by megaphones and foam fingers yesterday. It’s part of what Lusail calls “the city of the future” — a promenade of glittering tall buildings with no apparent purpose, culminating in a metal shark statue hanging from two skyscrapers.
Wandering at her lengths yesterday, it was hard not to think of Nirmala Pakhren, in a village six hours west of Kathmandu, whose husband of 27 years had dashed here to work on the World Cup and died of unprecedented causes. It has been adequately explained. When Qatar asked if there was some compensation for helping her and their son, she received an 800-word response from Secretary General of the Supreme Committee Hassan Al Thawadi that can be summed up in one word. No.
It was Messi and Mbappe – not the Qatari payers – who gave us something to cherish here last night. We leave without emotion, emotion, or intent to return to the gentle, soulless, faceless state of the desert. But they won’t care about that thing.
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