DOHA, QATAR — On Saturday evening, on the pristine streets of Souq Waqif in Doha, somewhere in the middle of the incense burners and The spice merchants and The squawking birds, which are very similar to a World Cup Finally, things started to look real.
Restaurants were dressed in flags representing the 32 countries. There were shops selling headdresses bearing America’s stars and stripes, the Argentine sun, Brazil’s Ordem e Progresso. There were many fans with their colors tied to their chests, or wrapped around their shoulders. and milling and Singing and smiling.
It felt, on Saturday, like something had ended: FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s extraordinary, strafing attack on anyone he could think of was a fitting culmination to 12 years of controversy and scandal and recrimination about the fact that soccer’s crown jewel, the biggest sporting event in the world, has been brought here, to this tiny enclave of absurd wealth.
Now the question is, “What’s next?” Tickets are still not sold for several group stage games. The expected fan influx has not begun. Just 48 hours remain before the first game. Qatar’s authorities decided that — actually — beer would not be sold at stadiums. As it turned out, the goal posts could still shift.
Qatar It has spent 12 years prepping itself. and FIFA spends the same amount time steeling themselves, for this World Cup Start. What type of World Cup But, how will it be? We’re about to find out.