When the soccer World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Nov. 20, it is going to accomplish two milestones. It’ll be the primary World Cup played within the Arab world, bringing the globe’s favorite game to certainly one of the regions where it’s most loved. It’ll even be the primary to be held within the Northern Hemisphere during its winter — essential in a nation where in June and July, when the tournament is generally held, the common day by day high is around 107 degrees.
Qatar is certainly one of the world’s smallest, but richest, countries: a tiny peninsula of land, barely the scale of Connecticut, jutting into the turquoise waters of the Arabian gulf. It’ll host all games inside Doha, the capital, and its satellite towns. The nation has seized on the worldwide sporting and cultural event as a chance to announce itself on the world stage. Its brand-new stadiums, hotels, roads and metro system — built at tons of of billions of dollars of expense — are designed to color the image of a futuristic hub of sports, tourism and education.
Yet the lead-up to this World Cup has been dominated like no other by negative headlines.
Human rights groups have drawn attention to unpaid wages, restrictive labor practices and unexplained deaths amongst low-income migrants, a few of whom built the air-conditioned stadiums where the games will unfold. Soccer fans have criticized the choice to carry the world’s largest party in a rustic where homosexuality is unlawful — and to at least one with too few hotels and really expensive beer. And an F.B.I. investigation of corruption in global soccer has solid a shadow over Qatar’s hosting of the tournament.
Qatar’s gloss and grit speak to its broader contradictions. Before the invention of hydrocarbons, it was certainly one of the poorest places on the planet, its economy reliant on pearl diving. Today it drips with seemingly limitless wealth and ambition. It touts itself as a beacon of free speech and education, home to the media giant Al Jazeera and satellite campuses of Georgetown, Cornell and Northwestern. However the local news media cannot officially quote the country’s ruler without written permission. And for all of the allegations of employee abuses, tens of 1000’s of migrants still flock there in the hunt for a greater life.
To assist improve your understanding of the place, listed below are five books that make clear a few of its most significant elements.
Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World, by Hugh Miles (2005)
This can be a highly-readable account of the satellite news service that shot to Western attention over its coverage of the U.S.-led “war on terror.” The book charts the channel’s birth and development, helping to demolish myths and misunderstandings in regards to the Arab world along the way in which.
The Girl Who Fell to Earth: A Memoir, by Sophia Al-Maria (2012)
A moving and funny coming-of-age memoir by a Qatari American artist, that is certainly one of the rare insights into life for Qatari nationals, who make up only 11 percent of the population of Qatar and are famously reticent in the corporate of outsiders.
Qatar and the Gulf Crisis, by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen (2020)
Qatar’s biggest modern crisis unfolded from 2017-21 when, all at once, its neighbors placed the country under economic and political embargo, in a dramatic escalation of a long-running regional rivalry. This account moves from origin to (almost) conclusion, capturing how badly the initiative backfired, strengthening Qatar’s independence and global standing.
Red Card: FIFA and the Fall of the Most Powerful Men in Sports, by Ken Bensinger (2018)
Several books cover FIFA, corruption and the awarding of the hosting rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. This one, by a Recent York Times reporter, gets the nod for its pace, clarity and unrivaled access to the F.B.I. and I.R.S. — the important thing instigators of the large (and ongoing) corruption case being brought against a lot of those that run the worldwide game.
Changing Qatar: Culture, Citizenship, and Rapid Modernization, by Geoff Harkness (2020)
A cleareyed account of Qatar’s many communities by a sociologist previously based in Doha. The creator is sympathetic to the country’s challenges, but doesn’t pull his punches when exploring issues around free speech, sexuality, and the treatment of migrant employees.
John McManus is the creator of “Inside Qatar: Hidden Stories from One in all the Richest Nations on Earth,” an account of life within the country told through the eyes of those that call it home.