Watch out; Qatar’s about

by Ben McAleer

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

When it was announced on December 2nd that Qatar were to hold the 2022 World Cup, football fans around the globe collectively spat their coffee across the room in disbelief. Heck, I bet even the people of Qatar were in a state of shock when Sepp Blatter pulled their nation from the envelope. Cue a mass celebration from the Qatari nation who were, undoubtedly, rubbing their hands gleefully about the prospect of the world’s best players gracing the Arabic state in just over a decade’s time.

With that in mind, football fans begin to question why a nation such as Qatar, with absolutely no history in the game whatsoever, are given the privilege of hosting the greatest tournament on earth ahead of Australia, Japan, who hosted the tournament in 2002, South Korea and USA, all of whom have the necessary infrastructure to successfully host the tournament and while possessing a relatively large football fan base already.

Some say backhanders were made and illegal payments being pardoned in order to secure the bid while Blatter himself admitted “the Arabic world deserves a World Cup. They have 22 countries and have not had any opportunity to organise the tournament.” Whether or not the bribery allegations were in fact correct or not, prospective presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam’s resignation certainly did him no favours, the fact still remains that Qatar will be hosting the tournament in 11 years time.

The announcement kicked started an impressive influx of Qatari’s into the game. First of all, the proclamation that the World Cup will be hosted, legally or illegally, by the small Arab state would have done wonders for the nation from a football perspective. The national football side is now managed by former Brazil, Fenerbache and Fiorentina manager Sebastião Lazaroni, the Brazilian having managed in the game since 1984.

Chances are he won’t be in charge of the side come 2022 but his appointment enough would have seen the world stand up and take notice of the new man at the helm of Qatar. Secondly, since football’s governing body chose Qatar as the host’s, the Qatar Foundation have since become sponsors of none other than the world’s biggest team; Barcelona. The Catalan giants chose to end their refusal of corporate sponsorship for the first time in the illustrious history, having signed a five-year deal with the foundation worth around €150m for five years.

Granted, they won’t have been the first side to have their name emblazed across the famous red and blue shirt, that belongs to UNICEF, a choice of sponsor that Barcelona chose to pay €1.5m per-year to pay to the charity organisation but in becoming the first corporate sponsor of the Blaugrana, the foundation have made history and certainly promoted Qatar in spectacular fashion around the world.

Finally, in regards to ownership, La Liga side Malaga CF are owned by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari Royal family and a very, very wealthy businessman. Yes, the announcement he would take charge of the Spanish side was made prior to Qatar securing the 2022 competition but it wasn’t until after the nation secured the World Cup that the Sheikh began flexing his financial muscles.

Bringing in Julio Baptista and Enzo Maresca, while appointing Manuel Pelligrini as head coach in January before ensuing on a summer splurge bringing in the likes of Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Santi Cazorla has made Malaga an attractive option for some of the world’s best players. It remains to be seen whether or not ‘Project Malaga’ will be a success or not but with the billionaire’s backing, it is only a matter of time before everything slots into place for the Andalusian outfit.

With Manchester United often being linked with a takeover from the Qatar Foundation, some feel that the nation are beginning to make their mark in world of football and it is only a matter of time before the grasp of the game spreads further across the globe.

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