The world’s most-watched sporting event, the Soccer World Cup, returns this autumn – another chance to find out if what’s often said about soccer is true: that 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and the Germans always win.
At the last World Cup in 2018 it was the Germans didn’t win. The French did and will be back at this year’s tournament in Qatar alongside their young superstar Kylian Mbappé. Ditto for Argentina’s incomparable Leo Messi and Portugal’s icon Cristiano Ronaldo in their World Cup swansongs. A new star is set to rise in footballing heaven this year – will it be Canadian Alphonso Davies, born to Liberian parents in a Ghanaian refugee camp and raised in Alberta, and now shining for Bayern Munich? And how are the Americans doing after failing to qualify for the 2018 tournament?
These are some of the many reasons for fans to travel to the 64 matches of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where the desert heat has pushed the schedule back from its usual summertime window to November 21-December 18.
For those planning to attend, now is the time to get tickets and accommodation. But there are also some compelling reasons not to participate. Below is an introduction to Qatar 2022: where to go, how to go and most importantly, should you go at all?
Human rights concerns have marred this year’s World Cup.
Concerns surfaced shortly after Qatar were named hosts in 2010. As the small Persian Gulf nation rushed to build seven new soccer stadiums, an airport, a transit system, hotels, housing and other infrastructure, allegations quickly followed that many of the country’s 2 million migrant workers were being forced to endure abjectly dangerous conditions.
Human rights organization Amnesty International described the “rampant” exploitation and abuse, with reports of unpaid migrant workers and long hours, often in the sweltering heat. The country responded to the scrutiny by introducing labor reforms in recent years, and tournament organizers say they have improved conditions for workers.
The country’s treatment of LGBTQ people has also sparked criticism. Qatar has said it will welcome LGBTQ fans to the tournament, but the country’s laws make male homosexuality illegal and carry a penalty of up to three years in prison. Qatar does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil partnerships, and demonstrating for gay rights is banned. Despite insisting LGBTQ visitors would be accepted, a senior Qatari security official, Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, said this month rainbow flags could be confiscated to “protect” fans.
Concerns over Qatar’s human rights record have prompted some of football’s leading figures to speak out. Lise Klaveness, the president of the Norwegian Football Association, slammed FIFA for allowing Qatar to host the tournament this month, calling it “unacceptable”. England manager Gareth Southgate called for reassurances on the safety of traveling fans. “It would be awful to think that some of our fans feel like they can’t go because they feel threatened or are concerned about their safety,” he said.
A spokesman for Qatari organizers said in an email that Qatar has hosted other sporting events since it received the rights to the World Cup without incident. “Everyone will be welcome in Qatar in 2022,” he wrote. “FIFA and Qatar are committed to staging a non-discriminatory tournament that welcomes all.”
A guide to the 2022 World Cup
The 32-team tournament begins on November 21 in Qatar.
So you want to participate. How will this year’s World Cup go?
This year’s World Cup features 32 teams, 31 of which survived the two-year qualifying process. (The 32nd, Qatar, automatically qualified as hosts.) They are divided into eight groups of four teams, with each team guaranteed a minimum of three games.
The top 16 advance to the knockout stages – followed by the quarter-finals and semi-finals – and the world champion will be crowned in the grand final on December 14 at the Lusail International Stadium in Lusail, a city north of Doha, the capital of country, crowned. 18
Qatar is by far the smallest country to have ever hosted the tournament, so in some ways this should be the easiest World Cup to visit. All eight stadiums are within a 35-mile radius of Doha, meaning fans at Qatar 2022 will need to travel little, rather than boarding planes and trains to follow their team hundreds or even thousands of miles. In fact, five of the eight stadiums are accessible via the Doha Metro (shuttle buses take fans to more distant stadiums).
Although the tournament is played in November and December, it still gets hot, with an average high of 85 degrees at the start of the tournament and 75 at the end. But games start in the late afternoon and evening, and all stadiums (only one has a retractable roof) will be air-conditioned and equipped with solar-powered ventilation and cooling systems to keep spectators comfortable.
How do you get cards?
You can enter the ticket lottery until April 28 at 5:00 pm EDT. After that, FIFA will hold a random drawing, with successful applicants being notified from May 31st. You can request tickets for individual matches or play all matches of a specific team. There is also a way to reserve provisional tickets if your team advances to the knockout stages.
Prices range from $70 to $220 for single tickets to group matches and escalate during the knockout stages. Tickets for the championship finals range from $600 to $1,600.
What about travel to Qatar?
If you manage to get tickets, the next step is to get a Hayya Card – a mandatory all-purpose ID for the World Cup visitor. The Hayya Card (Hayya means “let’s go”) not only serves as an entry visa for Qatar, but must also be presented on match days in addition to your ticket in order to enter the stadium.
Several airlines fly from New York to Doha, including American, Finnair, Turkish and Royal Jordanian. Qatar Airways offers more than 100 weekly flights from 12 cities in the United States.
Qatar Airways also offers all-inclusive packages that include game tickets, flights and accommodation. A package of tickets to all US games (three group games plus a round of 16 if the United States advance) is being advertised starting at $6,950 per person. Other packages range from $4,050 to $7,300 for the one that includes Championship Finals tickets.
Regarding the country’s coronavirus rules, Qatar currently requires adult visitors to present either proof of vaccination or a certificate of recovery to avoid quarantine, as well as negative results from a test taken within 48 hours of departure. Current country-specific regulations require masks to be worn on public transport, as well as in stadiums, shops and hotels. Proof of vaccination is required to enter many buildings and travelers must have Ehteraz, a Covid-19 notification app, on their phones.
What about shelter – can Qatar handle the influx?
Beds could be hard to come by with just 130,000 rooms for the up to 1.5 million visitors expected during the tournament. Apartment complexes meant to house fans are still being built, many near expressways and in dusty industrial areas.
The Qatar 2022 website has an accommodation portal which is the best place to start looking for accommodation. The site includes listings in hotels, apartments and villas, or aboard two major cruise ships that are anchored in Doha for the duration of the tournament. There’s also the option of staying in “fan villages,” which the site describes as “a variety of casual camping and cabin accommodation for the avid fan,” accompanied by a photo of a tent set amidst giant sand dunes. “More information coming soon,” reads the caption.
A recent search of the hotel rooms website revealed nothing was available, a disappointment for those wanting a room at the Four Seasons Doha. But even the modest three-star offers showed no vacancies.
However, some apartments and villas were available. At the bottom end was an apartment in Al-Wakrah, a suburb of Doha, for $84 a night. At the high end, a villa in Doha cost $920 a night.
Cabins aboard the MSC Poesia, moored in the Port of Doha, start at $179 on the website; on board MSC World Europa it is $347.
Airbnb had a few bookings in Qatar for the World Cup, which typically consisted of tents for $100 a night or apartments from $500 a night. Some fans may need to stay overnight in the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi, 330 miles from Doha, or Dubai, 390 miles away, and take a car, bus or plane to the game.
Any other tips for staying in Qatar?
Fans attending the World Cup should keep in mind that Qatar is a conservative Muslim country while the country is taking some precautions for the upcoming influx of tourists and visitors should be aware of its laws and customs.
For example, it is illegal to drink in public. During the World Cup, alcohol will be available in designated areas such as hotels and special “fan zones”, but public intoxication carries a six-month prison sentence.
“Visitors (both men and women) are expected to show respect for the local culture by avoiding overly revealing dress in public,” advises Visit Qatar’s official website. “It is generally recommended for both men and women to ensure their shoulders and knees are covered.”
According to Visit Qatar, public displays of affection between men and women are “prohibited”.
Even if you’re a big football fan and have the means to travel, deciding whether to go to this year’s World Cup could be a difficult one. Remember, you can always wait for 2026 when the World Cup takes place in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
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