I promised that this column wouldn’t be an attempt to dismiss or negate any talking point that could arise.
So let’s start with an easy floater.
It’s chaos. From checking in to riding a scooter through town. You feel for volunteers – a term here used loosely for those appointed with the task of navigating the tournament’s day to day fans. Not because they aren’t equipped to volunteer – without desensitizing the very real realities they are likely facing it’s worth saying they are incredibly friendly, helpful and very eager to speak to you about which team you root for and the like – but because they have been put in the spotlight of a spectacle.
A spectacle that is less gilded, less masqueraded.
At least being gilded provides a thinly-veiled alternate reality. But this spectacle has been so transparent it is almost as if the illusion is more an amusing tale shared by a disillusioned regime that stands alongside the very thing that is meant to be hidden.
Even as Morgan Freeman and Ghanim al Muftah met at center stage during the opening ceremony, reciting a rehearsed script about unity, earth being everyone’s home and the hosts welcoming all into theirs… I found myself noticing a flag pole on the side of the big screen at the Fan Festival. The pole was fighting against the strong wind and I stared intently at it as it swung from side to side from its weak foundation, wondering if and when it might fall down.
Then the soccer started and Ecuador’s goal in the fifth minute was ruled offside. It was a comical call given VAR’s involvement but Ecuador would find the back of the net again just a few minutes later.
After all, the ball doesn’t lie. Not even in Doha. Without a cover, exposing an open goal is quite easy. Especially when you invite the offense in.