Chris Jones is in Qatar masking the men’s World Cup for CBC Sports.
Qatar’s controversial World Cup lastly kicked off Sunday night time, pausing the continuing debate over whether or not the desert kingdom ought to be internet hosting the match within the first place. For a short while, at the very least, the sport grew to become the main target.
But after the Qataris misplaced 2-0 to Ecuador and their viewers evaporated round them, a quick spell of celebration ended, making means for a brand new spherical of concern.
The night time began brightly sufficient. The match passed off at Al Bayt Stadium, designed to seem like a large Bedouin tent, rising out of the desert an hour’s drive north of Doha. What it lacks in adornment on the skin, it makes up for with a stunning inside, together with a standard striped sample on the hovering roof.
Rows of camels had been ready outdoors when hundreds of followers started streaming towards the entrances on a heat, windy night. The overwhelming majority had been Qatari, many wearing conventional Arab thawbs, white and pristine. Just a few thousand Ecuadorians, carrying brilliant yellow, provided a formidable counter, particularly contemplating how outnumbered they had been, and the way far from residence.
The opening ceremony started with actor Morgan Freeman strolling out to present narrative gravitas to the proceedings, which, pointedly, had been about valuing distinction. (The specifics of stated variations went unnamed.)
“So we collect right here in a single huge tribe,” Freeman stated. “And Earth is the tent all of us stay in.”
Moments later, this 12 months’s mascot was unveiled: La’eeb, a keffiyeh with eyes and a mouth. He hovered over the pitch like a ghost over smaller, inflatable variations of mascots previous. It was all slightly disquieting if you considered it an excessive amount of.
Luckily, fortunately, fortunately, subsequent got here the soccer, the world’s most dependable distraction. And for the primary half or so, it reliably served its noble function.
Ecuador’s Enner Valencia wanted solely two minutes and 40 seconds to rating what appeared to be the match’s opening objective. It was quickly disallowed for a particularly slender offside, however within the sixteenth minute Qatari keeper Saad Al Sheeb fouled Valencia within the field, and Ecuador was awarded a penalty.
Valencia slotted the ball safely into the online. He scored a spectacular open-play objective quarter-hour later, heading residence a phenomenal cross to put the sport plainly out of attain.
The Qataris might need cash, however the one factor they have not been ready to mint is a good soccer staff. They opened the sport enjoying 5 males again, by no means an indicator of optimistic outcomes. It received worse from there. Generously ranked fiftieth on the earth by FIFA, Qatar was completely dismantled by Ecuador, ranked forty fourth. The defeat was the primary for a number in an opener in men’s World Cup historical past.
It was a loss by current measures, too. At halftime, hundreds of Qatar’s newly minted supporters started making their means again to Doha. Of those that remained, solely an clearly paid group of bussed-in ringers behind one of many objectives made any noise, drowned out by the delirious, jet-lagged Ecuadorians, dancing and singing of their still-packed part on the reverse finish.
Soccer life will not get any simpler for the Qataris, who’ve video games in opposition to the Netherlands and Senegal remaining. They will little question be three-and-out. There should now be questions on how gracious they are going to be to their visitors when the match continues with out them.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino made headlines all over the world along with his unusually defensive press convention on Saturday, claiming that we had been in retailer for the most effective World Cup ever. “The magic of soccer, as quickly as the ball rolls, individuals will consider that,” Infantino had stated.
He should have felt sick as Sunday’s crowd vanished round him. There are tickets accessible to many video games, and matchups between smaller nations danger being unnervingly quiet — Canada’s opener in opposition to Belgium on Nov. 23, as an example.
Despite FIFA’s corruption, regardless of soccer’s ugly politics, the World Cup has all the time gained in the long run as a result of it is all the time been performed in nations that love the sport. We’re about to see what occurs when it takes place in a rustic that does not.
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