Qatar - the mighty atom that dared to dream

Published: Tuesday, 18 December 2018

When asked ‘why Qatar?’ My reply is always the same ‘why not Qatar?’

On this day (December 18) in 2022 the World Cup Final will be played in the country that dared to dream. As an Englishman, nothing will give me more pride if my team is in that final. How good would that be? The country I was born in, playing for the greatest sporting prize of all, in the country I now live in and have grown to love.

There are so many mis-understandings about Qatar and this part of the world. I find that most ‘experts’ on this State are those that shout the loudest and have never been here. They are on most subjects aren’t they?

Crime? There isn’t any. In the five years I’ve lived here I’ve never once locked a car - or my house. Everybody has a bed. Unemployment is unheard of. Despite the best efforts of some of its neighbours to adversely affect it, the economy is buoyant. At this time of year the weather is gorgeous. And the golf is great!

‘Ah, but what about the workers?’, I hear you scream. ‘What about workers rights?’. Fair point. I’m not going to pretend that things are perfect on that front, but I can tell you that a lot has changed in that respect. Progress has sometimes been slow, but progress has been made. Sustainable change can’t happen overnight. If things are to change forever then progress has to be ‘managed’ and change has to be permanent. That’s what’s happening.

‘Ah, but they bought it’.... How many times have I heard that? One enquiry after another has cleared Qatar of any wrong doing. What has been exposed are the back stories to 2006 and 2010, but there’s never too much of a fuss made about those awards. Why not? The anger about Qatar is based on England’s failed 2018 bid, jealously and dare I say it, racism at times.

For me, there is no good reason why Qatar, an Arab country, shouldn’t host the World Cup. ‘But it was supposed to be played in the summer’.... I’ve heard that a lot too. Yes, the award was made on the basis that it would be played in June and July. The Qatari’s were well aware of that and planned accordingly. Every stadium would be air conditioned. Trust me, the technology works. It’s fantastic. The decision to move the tournament was made by FIFA.

Why not play it in December? Players will arrive here in peak fitness, not at the end of a draining domestic season, carrying knocks and on the brink of injury. For that reason alone this could be the best WC ever.

Other countries don’t share England’s anger about 2022. Every time an English journalist whines on about what a disgrace the award was the majority of the rest of the world shrugs its shoulders. It’s hard to express the depth of feeling people have about what is perceived ‘English arrogance’. Take the outdated anthem ‘Football’s Coming Home’. Is it? ‘Home’? Where is football’s ‘home’? I’ve argued with Geoff Shreeves about this since last summer. The song fired up the Croats that’s for sure. They’ve said as much. Paul Pogba has made his point about it. No. Football does NOT belong to England.

I’m aware that the song is based on ‘irony’ and mocks English failures since 1966, but that’s not the way it’s ‘heard’ by people overseas when it’s played. If I was Gareth Southgate I’d insist it was never played again. It inspires the opposition more than anything else does. It smacks of arrogance. There’s simply no point.

The last overplayed criticism of Qatar is that there’s no football heritage here. That’s not true. They’ve had a professional league here since the 70’s - around the time that the Brits shipped out and gave the country independence. Let’s not dwell on the Colonial interference eh? ‘Since the 70’s? Is that all.....’. Could someone perhaps remind me of the heritage in the USA when they won the WC in 1994? Correct. There wasn’t one, but look at it now. And they’re back for more.

Football in this part of the world is a way of life. Manchester City have Arab owners. So do Paris. Barcelona, Bayern and Roma have all been touched by Arab money.

We could argue all day about whether football should be a ‘business’. It is now, that’s the bottom line. There’s no going back.

As for me, I know very well that I’ll unleash another barrage of criticism for the above, but this is how it is from my perspective.

I’ve known these guys since 2008, when I first worked here. They’re loyal and grateful. For the first time in my life I work in an environment where people appreciate what I do. I’ve made many friends here.

I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve been tinkering with my book, which I won’t now publish until I’m finished. Reading through it I realised that I've always worked in an environment where people didn’t like what I did. Breakfast TV for example. Those of us that started what’s now the norm were trailblazers. Inadvertently we gave you Piers Morgan (sorry!).

No-one wanted Sky Sports to succeed. I’ve said this many times - Fergie gave us six months - and when we passed his prediction date he banned us from having anything to do with his first title success. Maybe that was just a co-incidence! What we achieved at Sky was remarkable.

And now I find myself fronting the English language service for a massive broadcast organisation whose tentacles touch all parts of the globe. I’m chuffed to bits to be doing it all over again. It’s an absolute pleasure.

And I make no apologies for whole heartedly supporting Qatar 2022. I repeat, this tiny Nation dared to dream. They’ve promised to ‘Deliver Amazing’ four years from now. I know they will. The Arab world deserves an event like this. I hope everybody in this region sees the sense in that and joins in. So I’ll leave you as we started on this subject - Qatar 2022 - why not? And come on England....👍🏼

I obviously can’t finish without mentioning Mourinho. He’s got what he wanted. He’s out. He’s been trying to get out for six months or more. A huge cloud has been lifted at Old Trafford. I got it wrong. I thought he was a perfect fit - but what a shambles he made of it all. He lost the players months ago. He lost the fans more recently and he lost the Board on Sunday at Anfield. Manchester United is a fantastic football club. Ed Woodward has one more role of the dice. I genuinely hope he gets it right. If he doesn’t then he’s got to go next time. ‘An enemy of football’ Ramon Calderon, the X President of Real Madrid, once called Mourinho. I’ve got bad news Ramon - he might just be heading your way again. 🤣🤣