Ever since the FIFA corruption scandal broke out more than a year ago, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been mired in controversy. But the Assistant Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Nasser Al Khater, in an interaction with the Indian media contingent, sought to project a positive outlook.
Question: What does this World Cup mean for this region?
Answer: The same as what the 2002 tournament meant for Japan and Korea. Japan qualified in 1998 after winning the bid. So it had a big push on Japanese football. We are expecting something similar.
How are issues related to the migrant workforce being addressed?
It is very important to ensure that the conditions [for workers] are comfortable. But the challenge now is from their home countries. There is a culture of agents making false promises and taking advantage of workers who want to go abroad. The United Nations, the International Labour Organisation are all trying to tackle it.
Then there is the issue of making our contractors — most of them international companies — abide. They have been here for 20 to 30 years and probably took advantage of some of the systems and laws. Now when Qatar has the World Cup, their countries are complaining. In the last 15 years our GDP has grown 10 times. May be the laws didn’t change quickly enough. There is recognition from the government that laws need to change. But it can’t change overnight. Germany actually took 20 years to introduce minimum wage.
It is said that the weather in Qatar isn't conducive for football.
The majority of the world’s population lives very close to the Equator. The Equator is generally hot, though Qatar might be a little hotter. Are you saying then that every country that is above the average is too hot to host a mega-event? We’ve had air-cooling technology for open spaces since 2008. Nobody knew about it, but Qatar has the IP (intellectual propriety) for this technology.
Will restrictions on alcohol affect the tournament? Budweiser is a FIFA sponsor.
Alcohol is available in Qatar. Will it be as readily available and in every street corner? No. The World Cup is not just a sporting event to cater to a specific demographic. This is for the world and the world has many cultures. We obviously are a conservative culture, but we’re also very welcoming. So this is an opportunity for people to get introduced to our culture. If they want their beer, they can have it. But there is recognition, even from liberal governments, that alcohol is problematic in areas where people congregate and their passions and emotions are running high.
So is Qatar going into the World Cup with a point to prove?
That was never the point. Neither is it even after a lot of criticism. The critics will keep criticising. We have to just focus on the goals — an exercise of nation-branding.
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