I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. I have spent the last few months, years, even, complaining about the Qatar World Cup. About the winter World Cup. About all of it. You know what? This World Cup has been absolutely fucking brilliant!
Should Qatar have hosted the 2022 World Cup? No, of course not. Should it have been played in winter? It’s the World Cup, of course it shouldn’t have. Was this a scintillating four weeks of football? You betcha…
Call me a hypocrite if you want, but I promise you I am not happy that the tournament went down this way. The awarding of this tournament made a mockery of every football lover on the planet. Anyone who reads my work knows how much I adore the concept of the FIFA World Cup, and yet I went into the tournament hoping for disaster. It’s hard to type that, but it is the truth.
I hoped that Qatar would win their opener 3-0, a hat trick of laughable penalties, all converted by Akram Afif. I hoped for a congestion nightmare, fans unable to cross an impassable Doha and anger at the organisation. I hoped for controversial decisions and a tournament winner so painfully scripted that myself and the rest of the world could put a great big asterisk next to the champion. The obvious Qatar dream victory, or perhaps the Messi-Ronaldo final that everyone supposedly hoped for.
What we got instead made me angrier than I could ever have imagined. Qatar got their arses handed to them by Ecuador. It was magical to see. They were embarrassingly bad, almost like they didn’t warrant being there. They ended up bombing out, officially the worst hosts ever and a shambles of a team. The transport and fan zones seem to have been a roaring success, despite the beer-debacle going in. The heightened alcohol rules lead to an arrest-free World Cup for travelling England fans. There were some shocks for sure, and when Argentina were felled by Saudi Arabia, after some very tight VAR calls ruling out three goals, I was beginning to question the validity of the tournament, and yet that appears to be more on the tactical masterminding of Hervé Renard rather than anything more sinister.
I had initially thought of boycotting the tournament in its entirety, though I knew I wouldn’t be able to do so. That being said, I genuinely said that I wasn’t going to absorb it like I usually do… like a 10-year-old child. Well, I didn’t get the sticker book, but stickies aside, I became that 10-year-old (albeit one who was trying to balance a full-time adult job with the matches).
I have managed to watch nearly every single game, with one or two unavoidable exceptions. I watched Saudi Arabia topple Argentina whilst simultaneously compiling a mailing list. I prayed to every God out there that the signal doesn’t cut out while watching Japan take down Germany on a bus route with notoriously sketchy cell-signal. I was nearly hit by an Uber watching Portugal and Ghana on a walk home from the office, and I’ve given my wife the puppy-dog eyes every time an evening game has gone to extra time. “Just thirty more minutes. Plus a few more if it goes to penalties. I’m sorry…. I love you! Why are you packing a suitcase?”
We’ve got ourselves a France v Argentina final. Messi v Mbappe. Two powerhouses who have deserved their place in the final. Are they the two best teams in the tournament? Debateable, but they’re both in the conversation. I’m rooting for Argentina, or rather, I’m rooting for the Messi fairytale. If France win, I won’t exactly be heartbroken. What pleases me is that there is no controversy here. They’ve both fought to be here and either can be considered a worthy winner.
If you’ve survived reading my ramblings thus far then thank you. I appreciate that this may feel a little cobbled together, and in truth, it is. I have done nothing but slate the 2022 World Cup for years and in all honesty, it has been absolutely wonderful. Flawless? No, of course not. But it has been entertaining.
It shouldn’t have ever been awarded. The lack of LGBTQ+ inclusion has been disillusioning. There are severe problems in Qatar which need addressed, but I highly doubt that my musings will be the way to change that. I respect those who opted to boycott, but I am a fan of football, and from a footballing point of view, this tournament has been fascinating. I am looking forward to the final and I hope that as a society we can accept that the tournament on the field was excellent and learn many a lesson from what happened off the pitch.