Indeed, there is a little less public than in other World Cups. It is completely understandable, Qatar has just 2,641,000 inhabitants, a Lilliputian compared to the last organizers: Russia 146 million, Brazil 218, South Africa 62, Germany 85. And the United States, next, has 340 million citizens. In addition, it must be considered that it is not in the center of the world, but rather far from it. It already happened in Korea and Japan in 2002, there were not as many foreigners as in the Italian, French or German Cups.
There is also the boycott from the West, with a cascade of bad news from a month before the start (by the way, they seemed coordinated): that it is very expensive, that it is an “oven country”, that human rights are being violated… The propaganda does its job. There are fewer foreign fans than in Russia, where, to cite just one example, 40,000 Peruvians went. And there is no meeting point like the Red Square in Moscow, where all the shirts and nationalities converged.
The same, it is not that the stadiums are empty. In a capacity of 40,000 suddenly there are 35,000. The only ones full, for the moment, were two. One, Qatar-Ecuador, for being the inaugural match, which was attended by 5,800 Ecuadorians, some 40,000 locals and many neutrals, the other, Argentina-Saudi Arabia. In this case, because Argentina has always been the country with the most followers in the World Cups and Saudi Arabia because it is the only neighbor with which it has a land border. They raised the barrier and tens of thousands passed through.
The boycott has not only been media. There is a problem with calls on cell phones. They cannot be set. Messages go through, calls don’t. WhatsApp has apparently been blocked for Qatar. The same is true with Zoom. Nobody says it openly, and the Qatari government will not mention it. It is necessary to look for other applications to try to communicate. A small war, but one that disturbs.
Among the fears that were sought to install is that of certain prohibitions such as drinking alcohol, which in fact is not easy to obtain, no business on the street sells it; too daring clothing and displays of affection in public. The latter are not fulfilled, at least with foreigners. We have seen women in miniskirts, with very short shorts that show their thighs, with pronounced necklines or sleeveless blouses. Nobody troubles them. As for the third point, a couple can go down the street hand in hand, hug and kiss without problems. Even after the sensational victory over Argentina, thousands and thousands of Saudis hugged each other effusively and no one repressed or reprimanded them.
Side note: Saudi Arabia had closed the border crossing with Qatar as a result of a diplomatic crisis, but they have moved closer and are in the process of becoming friends. After the victory, Qatar paid tribute to its neighbor: two impressive towers in the West Bay, the area of Doha’s skyscrapers, for one day wore two gigantic Saudi flags made with flaming lights on their facades. Category detail. By the way, the West Bay is breathtaking: it’s a vast area of original and high-class buildings, as if it were the product of a design championship of architects from all over the world. Some are residential, others occupied by banks, luxury hotels, multinational companies and, below, beautiful shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s like being in another dimension. Until not long ago it was all desert. It is part of the government’s development plan for the country.