The 2022 World Cup is still 11 years away, and so the few problems that arose as Qatar hosted the 2011 Asian Cup the past three weeks are far from dire. Nonetheless, questions will persist about whether the World Cup should be staged during the winter rather than in the searing summer heat, and how a small, oil-rich, and alcohol-free country of high prices can accommodate hordes of fans from all over the world.
Vast swaths of empty seats at many games reminded observers that Qatari soccer fans much prefer the glamorous national and club teams to their more modest regional neighbors. At the final, held Saturday at the Khalifah Stadium, thousands of fans were denied entry when entrances were closed shortly after kickoff.
"We should be allowed to enter,'' said Sameh Abu Assi, who had driven 932 miles from Saudi Arabia and said he spent $2,000 on hotels and tickets. "How do they expect to organize the 2022 World Cup? They can't even organize this.'' South Korean Ae-Young, a 27-year-old who traveled from United Arab Emirates to Qatar for the Asian Cup, said Doha is a city that "sleeps early.''
"It is not like in Korea where life is 24 hours,'' she said. "And the places we do go to have fun are all closed, and cost a lot." The World Cup will be entirely different on all levels, and one prominent soccer figure familiar to American fans is quite confident of Qatar's ability to get it squared away. "Whatever might become a problem, won't be a problem,'' said former U.S. coach Bora Milutinovic, hired by the Qatari bid committee as one of its good will ambassadors. "It's not only a matter of money, it's how it is spent. Qatar buys the best possible professional advice. They have a vision and they will make it reality. They are determined to make it a memorable experience. Whatever may be lacking, will be built."