Hype intensifies ahead of Qatar World Cup kick-off
The World Cup is finally here. In three days, thousands of soccer fans, and tourists alike, will throng various stadia in oil-rich Qatar to witness first-hand, the world’s greatest sporting showpiece.
Unlike in the past, this year’s football rendezvous is being held in November to December, as opposed to the traditional July to August. The reason; it is being held in Qatar, whose 40-plus-degree temperatures during the traditional July to August cycle would be unbearable to players and fans alike.
To mitigate this, the mandarins at the Zurich-based Fifa headquarters opted for the Qatari winter season, when temperatures are a bit bearable.
Since the 2022 edition falls in the middle of the European football calendar, it has inevitably come with its fair share of setbacks.
Chief among them, injuries to some key players who had been expected to grace the Qatar games, owing to the crowded football calendar preceding the Arabic festival.
As a result, the football world will have to make do with star names such as France’s Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Mike Maignan and Presnel Kimpembe, England’s Reece James and Ben Chilwell, Germany’s hitman Timo Werner, Marco Reus and Florian Wirtz, Portugal’s Diogo Jota, Brazil’s Diego Carlos and Arthur Melo, Holland’s Georgino Wijnaldum and Argentina’s Giovani Lo Celso. Some teams have taken big risks by including their star players nursing injuries in the hope that they will recover in time for the matches.
These include Belgium which has included their record goal-scorer Romelu Lukaku in the final team and Senegal, which is carrying along injured talisman Sadio Mane.
Also on the injury watch list are South Korea’s Son-Heung min, the man who bundled out of football powerhouse Germany during the last edition, Mexico’s star man Raul Jimenez, Spain’s Chelsea captain Cesar Azplicueta and Brazil’s wing wizard Anthony.
“We are going to use witch doctors. I don’t know (if they’re effective) but in this instance, we’re going to use them anyway. We are hoping for miracles. He has to be there,” Fifa’s Senegalese Secretary General Fatma Samoura was quoted, capturing the great lengths some of the teams are going to, to ensure they parade their best talents at the games.
The Qatar edition may also mark the swansong for two, nay three of the greatest men to grace the game. We are talking about Argentine genius Leo Messi, his Portuguese equivalent Cristiano Ronaldo and Croatia’s midfield dynamo Luka Modric.
And while at it, look out for USA’s Timothy Weah, whose father, Liberian president George Weah has taken a ten-day holiday at the taxpayer’s cost, to cheer him on in the gulf nation.
Unfortunately, the football world will have to make do without arguably two of the most colourful teams, The Azzuri of Italy and the Super Eagles of Nigeria, who both failed to qualify.
The writer is News Editor, People Daily