- World Cup 2022: Club World Cup provides some clues about Qatar experience10:32 | 26/12/2019
In three years’ time, the World Cup in Qatar will be over.
Liverpool played both of their Club World Cup games at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha
It will be the first one to be staged in winter and the tournament has been beset by controversy ever since it was awarded to the Gulf state in 2010, with construction-related deaths, concern for workers’ rights and Amnesty International saying some practices had “ruined lives”.
This month’s Club World Cup, which Liverpool won by beating Flamengo on Saturday, provided some insight into what can be expected when national teams and their fans travel to the tournament.
Will heat be a factor? Are the stadiums finished? Will fans be allowed to buy a beer? These are just some of the questions being asked.
BBC Sport has spoken to a range of fans, pundits and former players who travelled to Doha this month to get a taste of what to expect when the world’s focus turns to the Middle East in 2022.
Every stadium within 35-mile radius
The longest distance between the eight grounds to be used at Qatar 2022 is just 34 miles (55km), while the shortest is three miles.
Former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock, BBC Match of the Day’s co-commentator in Doha, believes the chance for match-going fans to gorge themselves on World Cup fixtures will appeal to visitors.
“If you are a football fanatic then to get the opportunity to get to three games in one day and make the most of a World Cup in that way is going to make for a great experience, like no other tournament in fact,” he said.
Ex-England winger John Barnes agrees.
“I don’t think there’ll be another World Cup where all the countries’ fans are going to be within about a 30-mile radius to be able to interact with each other,” Barnes added.
Temperatures lower than 2014 World Cup in Brazil
In the 2014 World Cup England played against Italy in the Amazonian city of Manaus, with temperatures on their arrival of around 35C and humidity of 70%
The World Cup in 2022 will start on 21 November, with the final on 18 December – the national day of Qatar.
Temperatures in Qatar at that time of year average between 18-24C and will be much cooler than if the World Cup had been held in the months of June and July, when temperatures can reach 40C.
Liverpool fan Andy Heaton, of the Liverpool podcast The Anfield Wrap, said temperatures were perfect for supporters.
“It’s a little bit strange thinking it’s almost Christmas time while the sun is blazing and we’re all having a good time,” he said.
“It’s been moderate, a little bit windy but it’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Warnock thinks the players will find the conditions ideal for tournament football.
“Conditions have been good. The temperature drops in the evening, so at the time Liverpool played both their matches last week it was about 20C, which is not too bad,” he added.
“During the day, which is when some of the World Cup matches will be played in 2022, it has not been overly hot either. It even rained the first few days we were here.
“The tournament has been played in hotter temperatures than that in the past.”
A ‘work of art’ stadium – but some mobility issues
The Club World Cup final took place at Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium, which is one of the venues for the World Cup.
The other seven are at various stages of construction, with work expected to be completed by 2020.
Former Liverpool winger Steve McManaman has no concerns the requisite number of grounds for the tournament will be constructed in time.
He said: “The stadiums look more than ready, compared with the problems in the past – ie South Africa and Brazil – when they were not as ready as they should have been.
Heaton was impressed with the acoustics of the ground where Liverpool’s match took place.
“The stadium’s a work of art. As a facility, it’s flawless. I was impressed that the atmosphere stays in – it’s like a bowl,” he said.
However, one Liverpool supporter believes the organisers still have work to do for fans with mobility issues.
“One of my main issues at the ground was around mobility,” said the Reds fan. “My friend walks with a stick and they were very helpful. They’ve got buggies but it wasn’t organised. They were saying ‘oh you can’t go there, oh you can’t go there’, then we needed a lift and they said there was one but when we got there they said it was VIPs only.
“They need to get that right. There are a lot of people with mobility issues who follow football all around the world. That’s a big thing they need to address.”
Transport and travel – any logistical concerns?
Qatar will spend more than £160bn on infrastructure for the tournament in addition to the vast outlay on stadiums.
McManaman, though, has some concerns about congestion on the roads during the World Cup based on his time in the country.
“I think the down sides are the traffic will be really bad. Seeing it here, with the amount of people who are going to come, it will be a problem,” said the former Liverpool and England winger.
“If you look around, or you leave the hotel, there are not many people walking on the streets. Nobody seems to walk around, everyone seems to drive.”
However, Warnock had a different experience.
“The organisation – in terms of getting to the ground and everything immediately before and after the games – was seamless,” Warnock said.
“As a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, it has been a really good one.”
Heaton believes there are certainly a number of logistical concerns for the organisers to overcome for fans.
“Security’s a bit intense at times, which is understandable given where we are and the situation at the minute with the other Gulf states,” he explained.
“It was tough getting into the stadium. I wouldn’t say it was heavy-handed but it was tight, it was tough.
“I don’t think they were ready for the influx of that amount of people in such a short amount of time. Maybe they’re used to other sporting events where people turn up in dribs and drabs.
“My worry is the logistical aspect of it – they’ve got a metro but it’s only small, the roads aren’t the best and everyone drives like a madman.”
What about the alcohol laws?
For many fans attending the 2022 World Cup, the question of whether they will be able to drink alcohol is a significant one.
Qatar is an Islamic country and it is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public. However, it is available at licensed hotel restaurants and bars, with a legal drinking age of 21.
But Heaton said he was “pleasantly surprised” by what he found during the Club World Cup.
“It’s got to be a bit of give and take,” he said. “They’re willing to bend to a certain degree and we’ve got to respect that.”
McManaman added: “I have been here before so I know how conservative it is. And of course, people can drink. But you can only do so in certain bars and certain hotels, so a lot of people convene there. It’s a mix of being conservative, but you go to certain bars and it is very westernised.
“Things will have to loosen up when the World Cup arrives. When millions of fans turn up it is going to be completely different, so you wonder what it will be like when people from all over the world, and cultures completely different from this, land here for the World Cup.
“But I do think it will be a success. I think tournaments like this really help. I know working with Fifa there are various teething problems, but they will be ironed out at next year’s Club World Cup and then it will be getting ready for the World Cup in 2022.”
Source – BBC News
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