5 reasons to attend the 2022 World Cup
Learn some facts about Qatar World Cup
If you are a soccer fan, then you’ve already heard the negative press about the Qatar World Cup. Going all the way back to 2010 when Qatar was first announced as the host, reports immediately surfaced that bribery and corruption were involved in the voting process. Since then, articles have worried about the oppressive heat in Qatar. Or the lack of infrastructure. Or the poor working conditions for the laborers hired to build the stadiums. There have been multiple calls to let another country host the event. But if you are a fan of international soccer, there are many reasons to look forward to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Reason #1: Proximity of the stadiums
This is the big one. This is the numero uno reason why this World Cup will be the most amazing ever, so pay close attention. But first I will need to start with a quick history lesson so you will better understand just how big a deal this will be.
The very first World Cup was hosted by Uruguay back in 1930. That World Cup consisted of just 13 national teams and the tournament was spread across only 3 stadiums, all of which were located within the city of Montevideo. (Bonus trivia: the very first World Cup match ever was won by the USA over Belgium, 3-0). The Uruguayans ended up winning the tournament, defeating Argentina.
Ever since that first World Cup, the tournament has been played every four years with the exceptions of World War II. All of the subsequent World Cups have been dispersed across multiple cities. The 1962 World Cup was split across just 4 cities in Chile. The 2002 World Cup was shared by South Korea and Japan, who hosted the matches across a whopping 20 different cities. Going all the way back to 1934, the average number of cities used to host a World Cup is 10. So why does that matter?
It matters because of travel time. My first World Cup was in 1994, and I had to follow Team USA from Detroit all the way to Los Angeles. I generally regard the 2006 World Cup as one of my all-time favorite experiences. I based myself in Frankfurt, Germany, and took day trips by train to see the USA matches. You could reach a host city by train on the same day as a match, then spend the night in the host city and take the train back to Frankfurt the next morning. This was significantly better than my experience in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Following Team USA meant plane flights to Natal, Manaus and Recife. The dense Amazonian rainforest surrounding Manaus was interesting, but I’d have much preferred to stay near the sunny beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Coordinating flights and hotels in Brazil was a logistical nightmare. Ask anyone that was there. The situation was similar in South Africa and Russia.
That concludes the history lesson, and now let’s focus on Qatar. The 2022 World Cup will technically be split across 5 cities in Qatar, but the reality is that the host cities are really just suburbs of Doha, the capital. All 8 of the host stadiums are connected by metro lines, and the farthest distance from the Doha city center is less than 30 miles! That means I can rent just one hotel for the duration and see all of Team USA’s matches without traveling to other cities. But wait, there’s more.
Because all 8 stadiums are within 30 minutes of each other, that means I can easily watch other teams play on the days off for Team USA. For that matter, the most fanatical soccer fans could manage to watch four matches per day, every day of the Group Stage. That has never been possible in the history of the World Cup. It is a dream come true. You can mark my words that there will be some fans who manage to attend all 48 group stage matches played in those first 12 days. It is the ultimate bucket list experience for a soccerphile.
Reason # 2: The Melting Pot
For the Germany World Cup in 2006, I stayed at the Steigenberger Hotel right across from the main train station in Frankfurt. It is a beautiful old hotel, and I truly enjoyed my stay. One of the highlights for me basing in one city was experiencing the culture shifts when teams arrived there for their matches. There was a match held in each host city every four days. So the first week of the tournament, the hotel was overrun by Brits there to see England play Paraguay. Four days later my hotel was filled with South Koreans. Next came the Iranians, and it was hard not to notice all of the beautiful young Persians gathered in the hotel lobby. The last group stage match in Frankfurt was between Holland and Argentina. Never in my life have I seen fans gather the way the Dutch do it. American sports fans think that tailgating before a college football game is a big deal. Imagine an entire city turned into a sea of orange clad Holland fans, with beers in hand, singing songs at the top of their lungs to support their national team. They didn’t have tickets to the game; they were just there to show support outside the stadium! Try to imagine a hyper-patriotic tailgate party that stretches to all edges of the city limits, and you have some idea of what that was like.
How does this apply to Qatar, you might ask? Well, all of the matches in the 2022 World Cup are being held within a 30-mile radius of Doha, the capital. That means virtually all of the fans for all of the teams will be staying all together in Doha. This is unprecedented. It will be the World Cup’s most epic melting pot ever. There will be 32 nations represented, and everyone will be staying in the same city, walking the same boardwalk, visiting the same restaurants and shopping in the same markets. If the United Nations had a baby with March Madness, I expect this is what it would look like. Every gathering place will be echoing with competing songs in a broad cross-section of home languages. It will be culturally epic!
Reason # 3 The Infrastructure: Hint: It’s all new
Qatar had to make a lot of promises to win the bidding process and host the 2022 World Cup. Specifically, they had to add a lot of new hotels. You can expect a slew of brand new 4-and 5-star hotel properties will continue to open up over the next year. They will be lavishly furnished, and the customer service will be exceptional. Qatar intends to make a great impression on the rest of the world, and it will start with beautiful new accommodations.
Doha also had to build a new metro rail line. The Doha Metro recently opened for service in 2019 and is notable for utilizing entirely driverless trains. At speeds of 100 Km/hr, it is among the fastest in the world. Every stadium will be accessible by metro, meaning there is no need to rent a car or ride a bus in Qatar. If you’ve got somewhere to be, the metro will get you there.
Speaking of the stadiums, only one of the eight stadiums existed in Doha at the time they won the bid. The remaining seven stadiums have opened within the last year or have yet to open. They are all being built using green technology and with plans to repurpose them after the games in developing countries. Most of the stadiums are compact, with capacity for about 40,000 fans. You can expect them to be new and clean, with high tech features and comfortable seating.
The World Cup final will be hosted in Lusail in a brand new stadium. Now get this, the entire metropolitan area is being built specifically for these games. Lusail is an entirely new city, built for this World Cup, complete with marinas, resorts, commercial and entertainment districts, a golf course and even a few man-made islands for an extra touch. At a cost of about $46 billion, Lusail is being built as a city of the future, and Qatar will showcase it during the World Cup. After the tournament is finished, they will convert the stadium into a community space with schools, shops, cafés, sporting facilities and health clinics. This level of development ahead of this World Cup is unprecedented.
Reason # 4: It’s something different
There has never been a World Cup hosted in an Arab country. This will be the Middle East’s chance to show off their corner of the world. I have enjoyed World Cup visits to Europe, Asia, South Africa and Russia. Now it’s time for something a little different.
Most visitors to Doha explore the world famous Souq Waqif market, which is the oldest market in Qatar. It has been a gathering spot for merchants for hundreds of years. It was renovated again in 2006 in traditional Qatari architecture and boasts hundreds of stalls selling traditional garments, spices, crafts, and souvenirs. It is also home to dozens of restaurants and hookah lounges.
For the more adventurous, a common half day trip is a desert safari tour. Your private driver picks you up from your hotel in a luxury 4X4 SUV and heads to the nearby desert. There they let some air out of the tires to make the vehicle glide more effortlessly up and down the sand dunes for a thrilling roller-coaster experience. Most tours also make the quick trip to Khor Al Adeid, which is one of only three places in the world where the desert meets the sea.
There will be other activities you are not likely to see anywhere else. You can explore the desert by ATVs. Falconry is big in Qatar. So are the camel races. Sand boarding is actually a thing, too. It’s fairly easy to rent a boat for fishing or just exploring the coastline. And of course there are plenty of beaches to enjoy, with perfect beach weather during the World Cup.
Reason # 5: The first Wintertime World Cup
The World Cup is traditionally held in the summer. Every World Cup in history started in either May or June and culminated by July. That was the original plan for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, but too many people raised concerns about the sweltering heat in the Qatari summer months. Considering that the average high temperature in the summertime is 108 degrees, who can blame them? So, in 2018, FIFA announced that the Qatar World Cup would move to a compacted schedule starting on November 21, 2022 and concluding on December 18th when daily temperatures will be in the seventies.
On the one hand, this means that in order to attend you’ll be spending Thanksgiving in the Middle East. But there is a significant upside to this timing. Consider that in the summertime, most international tourist destinations are clogged with families vacationing with their school age kids. At previous World Cups I’ve competed against families for airline seats, hotel rooms and restaurant reservations. That will not be the case in Qatar. The school age kids will have to stay home. The majority of visitors will be there specifically for the World Cup.