Al Khor, Qatar
For the previous yr, a large clock in Doha has been counting right down to the opening match of the World Cup. Qatar and the world want wait no extra, after this controversial match obtained underway Sunday with the host dropping 2-0 to Ecuador.
After a spectacular opening ceremony, which starred the likes of Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman and BTS star Jung Kook, the game itself lastly took middle stage after being overshadowed by off-the-pitch issues through the build-up.
It wasn’t the consequence that many in Qatar would have hoped for. The host seemed nervous and struggled in opposition to an opposition possessing expertise and high quality. In reality, the sport was all however over at halftime, with Ecuador comfortably 2-0 up thanks to 2 objectives by Enner Valencia.
All the thrill pre-match slowly drained away from the stadium within the second half and there have been noticeably extra empty seats as some followers appeared to have had sufficient.
The nearer we obtained to Sunday’s kickoff in Doha, the extra excited followers on this metropolis turned. An impressive firework show lit up the sky on Saturday night time and social media exploded with Qataris making their enthusiasm recognized about internet hosting one in every of sport’s greatest occasions.
Over the previous few days, followers from around the globe have gathered in squares in downtown Doha to sing, chant and wave their nationwide flags, making a implausible ambiance.
That competition spirit continued on match day, from town middle to the newly-built Al Bayt Stadium, which hosted the opening match of this historic World Cup, the primary to be held within the Center East.
At instances, it has felt like some other main worldwide match, however the build-up to this occasion has, in fact, been not like some other.
Corruption scandals plagued FIFA, world soccer’s governing physique, after it awarded Qatar the match in 2010 – although Qatari officers have beforehand “strongly denied” to CNN the allegations of bribery which has surrounded its bid.
For over a decade, and more and more in order kickoff neared, the pre-tournament build-up has centered on the nation’s human rights document, from the dying of migrant employees and the situations many have endured in Qatar, in addition to its LGBTQ legal guidelines and the position of girls in its society. The nation’s last-minute ban of alcohol in World Cup stadiums additionally made headlines around the globe.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s outstanding press convention on the eve of the opening recreation demonstrated simply how little on-field points have featured to this point.
The FIFA boss addressed tons of of journalists in Doha, Saturday, and began the information convention with a close to hour-long speech, throughout which he accused Western critics of hypocrisy and racism.
These concerned within the match have confronted a lot criticism. Colombian singer Maluma, who options within the official World Cup anthem, walked out of an interview on Israeli tv when he was questioned in regards to the Gulf state’s human rights document.
The opening ceremony itself centered closely on unity, with performances giving a nod to all of the nations taking part in on this yr’s match.
Whereas the pre-match consideration was inevitably on the host nation, Qatar’s opponents additionally had a narrative to inform as its place within the match was solely confirmed weeks in the past after it was concerned in a authorized dispute with rivals Chile.
It centered across the eligibility of Bryon Castillo who, rivals argued, was ineligible to signify Ecuador over claims he was born in Colombia. The case was referred to the Court docket of Arbitration for Sport, who deemed Castillo eligible however, regardless of this, he was not included in his nation’s World Cup squad for Qatar 2022. On Sunday’s displaying, it doesn’t appear like the group miss Castillo.
Minutes after the sport began, the noisy Ecuadorian followers had been celebrating after it appeared their facet had taken the lead. Valencia headed in from shut vary however the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) deemed Valencia was offside and disallowed the objective.
However simply minutes later, the yellow shirts had been celebrating once more as Valencia put his facet forward from the penalty spot. Goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb had fouled the ahead as he tried to skip past him.
The captain doubled his tally earlier than the primary half completed, directing a bullet header into the underside nook as Qatar seemed in need of confidence and perception.
Now that the motion is underway, organizers will hope consideration will transfer away from human rights and different off-field points. However, in reality, this match’s legacy won’t be decided on the pitch. As an alternative, will probably be determined by actual change and the advance of the lives of the individuals who helped make it occur.