Analysis: World Cup kicks off with Ecuador blanking host Qatar


After 12 years of planning, $220 billion in authorities funding and numerous controversies involving every part from staff’ rights to beer gross sales, the 2022 World Cup kicked off Sunday evening on the sting of the Qatari desert in an enormous stadium constructed to seem like a Bedouin tent.

It was a spectacular setting for the primary World Cup to be held within the Center East and the primary to be held in a majority-Muslim nation. And the evening started with pomp worthy of these circumstances, with Morgan Freeman internet hosting a 30-minute opening ceremony that concerned two sheiks, three camels, 4 drummers, the final 14 World Cup mascots and 32 dancers dressed as big replicas of the taking part groups’ jerseys.

It led to a 2-0 win for Ecuador, spoiling the Qatari crew’s World Cup debut and disappointing many within the sellout crowd of 67,372. However the evening was about extra than simply soccer. For Qataris the hope is that this event will show the nation, the smallest and youngest ever to host the occasion, is able to grow to be a significant international participant.

“It’s the beginning of the future,” mentioned Mohammed Boinin mentioned as he stood on a stadium concourse earlier than kickoff. “This is to show people what we can do.”

Close by, 14-year-old Rashid Al-Khater leaned towards a pillar tapping out a message on his cellphone. He was 3 when Qatar received the rights to host the World Cup and he’s been ready most of his life for Sunday to reach.

“This is an experience you have to see. It’s changing everything,” he mentioned. “The biggest sporting event is now in Qatar; Qatar will always be known for the World Cup.”

The event has been awash in controversy from the beginning, nevertheless, with the bid course of that awarded it to the nation in 2010 marred by allegations of corruption and bribery. 5 years later FIFA, the governing physique of world soccer, backed away from guarantees the event may very well be performed in Qatar’s intense summer season warmth and moved the World Cup to the winter for the primary time, scrambling home league schedules all over the place.

Legal guidelines within the conservative Islamic nation banning homosexuality and proscribing free speech had been additionally attacked by human rights activists, however probably the most intense criticism centered on Qatar’s remedy of tens of 1000’s of migrant staff, who toiled beneath appalling circumstances constructing the stadiums and far of the World Cup infrastructure. After years of defending its use of the kafala system, authorized labor codes beneath which international staff are handled little higher than indentured servants, Qatar abolished probably the most extreme elements of the system and raised the minimal wage to $275 a month – or about $1.56 an hour in a rustic the place the annual per-capita GDP for residents is $130,000.

By then, the Guardian reported, greater than 6,500 staff had died. But building delays continued previous Sunday’s kickoff, with even the five-star bayside resort reserved for FIFA’s elite remaining unfinished.

The Qataris finally misplaced endurance with the worldwide condemnation and what they thought-about a scarcity of respect for the native tradition. So on Friday the federal government performed its final trump card, reneging on years of cautious negotiations by demanding beer gross sales be banned in and across the eight World Cup stadiums.

The World Cup Trophy is illuminated earlier than the World Cup Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador in Al Khor, Qatar, on Sunday.

(Natacha Pisarenko / Related Press)

FIFA rapidly capitulated, with its president, Gianni Infantino, giving a weird 57-minute-long speech on the eve of Sunday’s opening recreation through which it accused Qatar’s critics of hypocrisy, dismissed the considerations of LGBTQ followers and insisted the nation’s labor points had been resolved.

The World Cup, it was clear, would go on, however on Qatar’s phrases.

On Sunday, the main target lastly turned to soccer with a convincing efficiency from Ecuador spoiling Qatar’s celebration.

The South People placed on a clinic for his or her outmatched hosts, with Enner Valencia scoring 3 times within the first 31 minutes — though solely two counted after his opening objective within the third minute was erased by a video assessment that confirmed an offside name.

FILE - Branding is displayed near the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, in Doha, Qatar, March 31, 2022

⚽ 2022 Qatar World Cup

Irrespective of. Valencia, Ecuador’s all-time main scorer, obtained the objective again within the sixteenth minute after being introduced down within the field by Qatari keeper Saad Al-Sheeb, establishing a penalty kick the Ecuadoran captain softly pushed into the underside proper nook.

Valencia doubled the lead quarter-hour later, heading in an extended cross from Ángelo Preciado on the far submit.

Qatar missed an opportunity to get on the board within the ultimate seconds of first-half stoppage time when star ahead Almoez Ali, alone on the fringe of the six-yard field, mishit a header off an extended cross from Hassan Al-Haydos. That proved to be Qatar’s most harmful probability on an evening through which it did not put a shot on track.

By the ultimate whistle the stadium was greater than half-empty.

Boinin, the Qatari fan who can be the senior newsgathering and operations coordinator at Al Jazeera, the government-owned information community, didn’t let the consequence spoil his night. Sunday was about one thing a lot greater than the rating of a single recreation.

“We are not expecting much,” he mentioned of the nationwide crew. “The win was just making this happen.”