DOHA, Qatar — On Saturday night, in the pristine streets of Doha’s Souq Waqif, somewhere amid the incense burners, spice merchants and clamoring cages, something finally approaching World Cup finals began.
The restaurants were decorated with the flags of 32 competing countries. There were shops selling headdresses bearing the Stars and Stripes of America, the Argentine sun, and the Brazilian Ordem e Progresso. And there were hundreds of fans, their colors pinned to their chests or draped around their shoulders, mingling and grinding and singing and smiling.
It felt, on Saturday, as if something was up: FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s extraordinary attack on anyone he could think of was a fitting culmination of 12 years of controversy, scandal and accusations about the fact that the jewel of football, the biggest sporting event. In the world, here, to this little pocket of ridiculous wealth.
The question now is what comes next. There are still unsold tickets for a handful of group stage matches. The expected influx of fans has not started yet. Barely 48 hours before the first match, the Qatari authorities decided that – in fact – no beer would be sold in the stadiums. It turns out that the target’s leaflets are still able to transform.
Qatar has spent 12 years preparing itself, and FIFA has spent the same amount of time preparing itself for the start of the World Cup. What kind of World Cup will it be, though? We’re about to find out.
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