FIFA football blends with faith in Qatar -Moinul Alam
The greatest show on earth i.e. FIFA World Cup football is being held in Qatar. The tournament was kicked off on 20th November and the grand final match was played on 18th December with Argentina emerging as champion. The tournament reached the peak of excitement as it progressed to the knock out round.
There have been many things happening for the first time in the history of world cup football in this tournament. For the first time in history the tournament is hosted by a Muslim country. The Middle East is also hosting the tournament for the first time. For the last time, 32 countries played in this world event. From 2026, number of participating countries will be increased to 48. The tournament was played during the winter for the first time keeping in mind the temperature of Qatar during the summer.
This world cup may be termed as the most expensive one as Qatar spent almost 300 billion dollar. Therefore, it is not unnatural for the venues to have the latest technology and features. All the stadiums were air conditioned. Seven out of total eight venues have been constructed afresh. This world cup also witnessed a temporary venue for the first time. Stadium 974 has been made up with 974 recycled shipping containers. The stadium may be dismantled or handed over to third party after the tournament is over. Bangladesh is interested in using stadium there.
As Qatar is a Muslim country, it is being governed by the Sharia law. Therefore, the country imposed a number of restrictions which may be considered as unique as far as the previous tournaments are concerned. Such restrictions cover areas like policies concerning drugs, alcohol, sexuality, dress code etc. Sex trade and prostitution have always been an important source of income for the hosting nation. However, Qatar banned any kind of extramarital physical relationship. If anyone violates the law, he will be punished with imprisonment for at least seven years. Moreover, the country also imposed restriction on alcohol consumption except in some designated places. The country also urged everyone to avoid excessively revealing clothing and bold fashion.
Moreover, Qatar prompted positive image of Islam by welcoming football fans with Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). The great show was inaugurated with youtuber Ghanim Al Muftah reciting from Sura Hujurat: “Ya ayuhannasu inna khalaqum min jakariu wa unsa wa ja’alnakum shuubau wa qabaila li ta’rafu. Inna akramakum indallahi wa atqakum.” O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a man and a woman, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may ?get to? know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you.
Qatar, a GCC member country, tried to remove misconceptions about Islam by taking tourists to different historical places and guiding them with the true spirit of the religion. The governing body of world football namely FIFA also co-operated in making this tournament a success. FIFA showed zero tolerance against any kind of discrimination. It may be evident from the fact that a probe against Serbia is likely to be launched for hoisting anti-Kosovo flags in the dressing room.
This tournament may be termed as the most technologically advanced one. Introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has also been controversial to some extent. In the first match, the very first goal scored by Ecuador against the host nation was cancelled due to offside by VAR. Moreover, number of goals were cancelled due to off side and penalties were given using this technology. In the match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia, 3 goals of Argentina were invalidated by VAR due to offside. VAR made a wrong decision in the crucial match between Japan vs Spain. Japan’s goal was judged valid even though it was clearly seen that the ball was off the line. Japan won the match due to that goal and four time champions Germany had to exit from the first round.
As far as the first round of the tournament is concerned, there were many upsets and surprises. Hot favorite Argentina came to play the tournament being unbeaten for 36 consecutive matches. However, they went down to Saudi Arabia by 2-1 margin. This match may be termed as one off the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament. The defeat put Argentina in the risk of elimination from the first round but they managed to qualify for the round of 16 at the end.
Japanese footballers proved their mettle. They stunned two former champions namely Germany and Spain. Asian superpower Japan defeated the former by 2-1 and the latter by the same margin. Japan lost to Costa Rica but advanced to the round of 16. However, the samurai were unlucky to qualify for the quarter finals as they lost to Croatia in a tie breaker. Two Muslim countries namely Morocco and Tunisia also played more than expectation. Morocco made it to the round of 16. They held the defending runners up Croatia 0-0 and defeated the third place holder of the last edition Belgium by 2-0. On the other hand, Tunisia defeated defending Champion France by a solitary goal although they failed to make it to the next stage. Among other upsets, another Asian power house South Korea beat Christiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. The match between Serbia and Cameroon was neck to neck. Cameroon managed to draw the match 3-3 despite falling behind by 2 goals. Spain beat Croatia by 7-0 which is the largest margin of victory in the tournament so far.
In the round of 16, there were not any upsets apart from Moroccan magic. Two matches were decided by the penalty shootout. Asian super power Japan’s advancement was halted by Croatia as the won by 3-1 in the Tie breaker. Besides, Morocco beat 2010 champion Spain 3-0 in the penalty shoot-out. Portugal thrashed Switzerland 6-1 to record the victory by biggest margin in the round.
Two out of the four quarter finals were decided by penalty shoot-out. Therefore, it is very much understandable that those matches were nail biting indeed. In the first quarter final, favorite Brazil went down to last time Runners-up Croatia in the penalty shootout by 4-2. On the other hand, Argentina defeated Nederland 4-3 in tie breaker. Morocco continued their superb performance and made it to the semi-final as they defeated Portugal 1-0. Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal broke into tears as it was likely his last world cup appearance. Defending champion France beat England 2-1, thanks to the English skipper for missing the penalty.
The two Semi-final matches were decided within the stipulated 90 minutes. Both the matches were one sided as Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 and France beat stunning Morocco 2-0 to play head to head in the final. Therefore, the final match was held between Argentina and defending champion France on 18th December. The final may be termed as the best final match ever. At the end of 120 minutes, the match was tied at 3-3. Golden boot winner (highest goal scorer) Kylian Mbappe’s hattrick went in vain as the French side lost to Argentina 4-2 in the penalty shoot-out. Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez appeared as the savior once again in the tie breaker. He won the golden gloves thereby becoming the best goalkeeper of the tournament. This was Argentina’s third world cup triumph and Lionel Messi’s dream came true as it was the only title left untouched by this legend.
But it is for sure that the tournament hosted by Qatar will remain memorable and will be treated as the best ever one so far. Through orchestrating the extravagant event, Qatar has attained soft power. It is that tiny little country which brought the USA and Taliban leadership together to a discussion over the former’s exit from Afghanistan. The nation also helped German soldiers leave Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban.