Twelve years ago, Qatar hosted the World Cup and the scrutiny has hardly stopped since.

But tonight, after a build-up as odd and low-key as anything before, the controversy was put to rest as football finally took center stage.

Outside Al Bayt Stadium, designed to look like a Bedouin tent, supporters from Qatar and Ecuador mingled, sang and danced with supporters from around the world.

We spoke to fans from Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, South Africa and the Netherlands.

The world has certainly come to Qatar, but not yet in the numbers one would expect for the start of the greatest sporting event on Earth.

The opening ceremony was impressive, as you would expect from a country that has spent up to $10 billion to host this tournament.

Actor Morgan Freeman narrated a message of unity as symbols and personalities of the Arab world were watched by 60,000 people in one of seven brand new arenas built for the tournament.

Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, was seated in the royal box, next to Gianni Infantino, the President of FIFA, and another from the Emir of Qatar. Until recently, the Saudi kingdom led a boycott against Qatar; tonight, the Gulf nations seemed friends again.

It was a statement. Both countries have questionable human rights records, but with the world’s eyes on the Middle East, the concerned neighbors have decided to stick together.

World Cup openers can often be tricky affairs. Not this time. Qatar was poor and their South American opponents took advantage.

Please use Chrome browser for more accessible video player

Fireworks kick off the World Cup

Read more:
England will take the knee in Qatar
The FIFA president’s rambling tirade was the first World Cup own goal

First hosts to lose opening match

Ecuador had a first goal ruled out, after VAR detected the narrowest offside, but within a quarter of an hour they were down to a zero. The first goal of the 2022 World Cup came from the penalty spot.

Ecuador doubled their lead before half-time and could have extended it further. Qatar came close before the break, but in truth they looked out of rhythm.

Enner Valencia scores Ecuador's second goal
Image:
Ecuadorian Enner Valencia scores his second goal

With less than 70 minutes on the clock, the stadium began to empty. Qatari fans headed for the exit as their team struggled to keep the score low.

Qatari organizers will be delighted that football has finally started, but it was not the start they wanted.

With all the other charges against them, tonight they earned the somewhat ignominious honor of becoming the first hosts to lose the opening match of a World Cup.

It’s been a tough build for Qatar off the pitch – from this performance, it couldn’t get any easier for them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *