The most-watched sporting event on Earth, the FIFA World Cup, returns this fall – another chance to see if what’s often said about football is true: 22 men chase the ball for 90 minutes, and the Germans always win.
In the last World Cup 2018, the Germans did not win. The French have done just that, and they will return for this year’s championship in Qatar, along with their young star Kylian Mbappe. So do the incomparable Argentina Leo Messi and Portugal icon Cristiano Ronaldo in what could be their swan song at the World Cup. A new star is sure to rise to the footballing skies this year – will Canadian Alphonso Davies, born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana and raised in Alberta, now shine for Bayern Munich? And how will the Americans do after failing to qualify for the 2018 championship?
These are some of the many reasons fans are heading to 64 matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, as the desert heat pushed the schedule from the usual summer window to November 21 to December 18.
For those planning to attend, time to get tickets and a place to stay. But there are also some compelling reasons for not attending. Below, a primer on Qatar 2022: where to go, how to go, and most importantly, should you go at all.
Human rights concerns overshadowed this year’s World Cup.
Concerns surfaced shortly after Qatar was named a host in 2010. When the tiny Gulf state scrambled to build seven new football stadiums, an airport, a transit system, hotels, apartments and other infrastructure, allegations soon followed that many of the country’s two million migrant workers were forced to. To withstand deplorable and dangerous conditions.
Amnesty International for Human Rights detailed the exploitation and “rampant” abuse, with reports of migrant workers not being paid and working long hours, often in sweltering heat. The country has responded to scrutiny by introducing labor reforms in recent years, and tournament organizers say they have improved conditions for workers.
The country’s treatment of LGBT people has also drawn criticism. Qatar has said it will welcome LGBT fans to the tournament, but the country’s laws make male homosexuality illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison. Qatar does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil partnerships, and demonstrations for gay rights are prohibited. Despite insisting that LGBTQ visitors be accepted, a senior Qatari security official, Abdulaziz Abdullah Al-Ansari, said this month that rainbow flags may be confiscated to “protect” fans.
Concerns about Qatar’s human rights record have prompted some prominent footballers to speak out. The head of the Norwegian Football Association, Liz Klavnis, criticized FIFA for allowing Qatar to host the tournament in a speech this month, calling it “unacceptable”. England manager Gareth Southgate has called for assurances of the safety of traveling fans. “It would be shocking to think that some of our fans feel they can’t leave because they feel threatened or are worried for their safety,” he said.
A spokesman for the Qatari organizers said in an email that Qatar has hosted other sporting events since being awarded the rights to host the World Cup without incident. “Everyone will be welcome in Qatar in 2022,” he wrote. “FIFA and Qatar are committed to providing a tournament that is free of discrimination and welcomes everyone.”
Read more about the 2022 World Cup
So, you want to attend. How will this year’s World Cup work?
This year’s World Cup has 32 teams, 31 of whom have survived the two-year qualifier. (32nd place, Qatar, automatically qualified as host). They are put into eight groups of four, with each team guaranteed at least three matches.
The top 16 players advance to the knockout stage – followed by the quarter-finals and semi-finals – with the world champions crowned in the grand final at the 80,000-seat Lusail International Stadium in Lusail, a city north of Doha, the country’s capital, on December 3. 18.
Qatar is by far the smallest country to ever host the tournament, so in some ways this should be the easiest World Cup to attend. All eight stadiums are within a 35-mile radius of Doha, so rather than having to hop on planes and trains to follow their team over hundreds or even thousands of miles, fans in Qatar 2022 won’t have to travel at all. In fact, five of the eight stadiums are accessible via the Doha Metro (shuttle buses will take fans to the more distant stadiums).
Although the tournament will take place in November and December, it will still be hot, with an average score of 85 at the start of the tournament and 75 by the end. But matches will begin in the late afternoon and evening, and all stadiums (only one with a retractable roof) will be air-conditioned, using solar-powered ventilation and cooling systems designed to keep spectators comfortable.
How do you get tickets?
You can enter the ticket lottery until April 28 at 5 AM EST After that, FIFA will conduct a random selection lottery, with successful applicants notified as of May 31. You can apply for tickets for single matches, or all matches that a particular team will play. There is also a way to reserve provisional tickets if your team advances to the knockout stage.
Prices range from $70 to $220 for single tickets for team matches and escalate during the knockout stage. Tickets for the tournament final will cost anywhere from $600 to $1,600.
What about traveling to Qatar?
If you are successful in getting tickets, the next thing you should do is get the Hayya Card – a mandatory all-purpose ID for a World Cup visitor. The Haya Card (Hayya means “let’s go”) not only serves as a visa to Qatar but must be presented – in addition to your ticket – to enter the stadium on match days.
Several airlines fly from New York to Doha, including American, Finnish, Turkish and Royal Jordanian Airlines. Qatar Airways offers more than 100 weekly flights from 12 cities in the United States.
Qatar Airways also offers all-inclusive packages that come with match tickets, flights and accommodation. One package with tickets to all US matches (three team matches plus a Round of 16 match, if US advances) is advertised from $6950 per person. Other packages range from $4,050 to $7,300, for the package that includes tickets to the tournament final.
As for the country’s coronavirus rules, Qatar is currently requiring adult visitors to show either proof of vaccination or a certificate of recovery to avoid quarantine, as well as negative results from a test taken within 48 hours of departure. Current regulations in the country require public transportation, stadiums, shops, and hotels to be hidden. Proof of vaccination is required to enter many buildings, and travelers are required to use Ehteraz, the Covid-19 notification app, on their phones.
What about accommodations – can Qatar handle this influx?
Beds can be hard to come by, with only 130,000 rooms for up to 1.5 million visitors expected during the tournament. Condominiums designated to house fans are still being built, many near highways and in dusty industrial areas.
Qatar 2022 has an accommodation portal that is the best place to start your search for accommodation. The site displays listings of hotels, apartments, villas or on board two large Rasta cruise ships in Doha for the duration of the tournament. There’s also the option to stay in “fan villages,” which the site describes as “a variety of casual camping and cabin-style accommodations for the enthusiastic fan,” accompanied by a photo of a tent amid the vast sand dunes. “More information soon,” the caption read.
A recent search on the site for hotel rooms showed that nothing was available, a disappointment for those who fancy a room at the Four Seasons Hotel Doha. But even the modest three-star lists did not show any vacancies.
However, some apartments and villas have been provided. On the low end was an apartment in Al Wakra, a suburb of Doha, for $84 a night. In the end, the price for a villa in Doha was $920 per night.
Cabin rates on board the MSC Poesia docked in Doha Port start at $179 on the website; Aboard the MSC World Europa, they are $347.
Airbnb has had some bookings in Qatar for the World Cup, which tend to consist of tents at $100 a night or apartments starting at $500 a night. Some fans may have to stay in the UAE in Abu Dhabi, 330 miles from Doha, or Dubai, 390 miles away, and take a car, bus or plane to go to the game.
Any other tips for staying in Qatar?
Fans attending the World Cup should keep in mind that while the country does make some provision for the incoming influx of tourists, Qatar is a conservative Muslim country and visitors should be aware of its laws and customs.
For example, it is illegal to drink in public. During the World Cup, alcoholic beverages will be available in designated areas, such as hotels and special “fan areas”, but general intoxication can result in up to six months in prison.
The official Visit Qatar website advises: “Visitors (men and women) are expected to show respect for the local culture by avoiding excessively revealing clothing in public.” “It is generally recommended for men and women to make sure their shoulders and knees are covered.”
According to Visit Qatar, public displays of affection between men and women are “disliked”.
Even if you are a football fan and have the money to travel, deciding whether to go to the World Cup this year can be risky. Remember, you can always wait until 2026, when the World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
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