On the eve of the World Cup, Doha is getting ready for what FIFA President Gianni Infantino calls the best tournament of all time. Visitors get a first impression of Qatari capitalism, which breaks the will of the people and turns them into a willless entity.
Welcome to Doha, dear readers. Welcome to the Qatar heat chamber. Already at the airport, the high temperatures hit you in the face. The muggy wraps itself around your shoulders like a warm, damp cloak. It is 8:30 p.m. in the evening. And at the end of November. The 30 degrees Celsius are still a much stronger and oppressive heat than in Germany. After just a few minutes in the desert state, you can imagine how immense the temperatures must be in summer and how incredibly stressful the body must be from physical work, for example on a World Cup construction site (of course without being able to really empathize with it in any way).
World Cup disillusionment reigns on the plane, and at the airport as well. Most passengers want to go further. It goes to Bali or Vietnam. An image that is repeated in the monumental halls and corridors (spick and span) of the newly built subway and in many of the trains (without a driver, in the front seats women and men can fulfill their dreams of girls and boys): Crowds of fans? none. But there's still a day to go before the opening game. What is not, can still be. For example at the start of the Fanfest, more on that later.
First of all, everything looks ready for the masses. Mainly miserably long, wavy lines lined with bars. In these, however, there are no masses, mind you, because they are not (yet) there. The countless helpers (mostly from India), volunteers and temporary police officers (Tournament Security Force, so far only men) rehearse the emergency with each individual. And so it goes before entering a subway station or on the way to a bus stop in the city center - left, right, left, another curve, here another pirouette, and then a final long arc - through the fence maze. The new desert odyssey where desert sand once ruled and now concrete buildings with huge glass fronts are growing towards the sky.
In general, Qatar sets up kilometer after kilometer of metal barriers for World Cup visitors. Every path seems clearly predetermined. If you have any doubts, within a tenth of a second one of the ten helpers in the area will send you in the right direction in a friendly but consistent manner. Your head is slowly getting used to these instructions. They seep into the brain more and more each time. It's almost as if you're losing your bearings a little, even losing your will. As if you are giving up self-determination more and more - almost voluntarily - and driving like a sheep in the herd. Have those in power here hatched a particularly clever rule plan?
It's different on the Corniche side. From the subway station near the water, fans stream across the street. "Exit only", rattles a megaphone in a continuous loop. A helper holds it. Nobody comes in here. A few fans are sitting in front of the gigantic red gates of the festival. Argentines, Tunisians, Brazilians, South Koreans, foreign workers, a few teenagers in hot pants and spaghetti straps. Europeans are hardly to be seen. A few England fans, Spaniards, Welsh and very few Germans. One, in the Götze jersey, shows his rainbow tie. Worn all day, he says, just not here. Because political symbols are not allowed at Fanfest. Otherwise nothing happened. A Mexican wears a rainbow wig.
Green and red flashing drones buzz above the large concrete surface, surveillance cameras are omnipresent, cheerleaders drive the masses through the gates and into the security checkpoints. Some run for fear of missing something. The atmosphere at the festival is relaxed. Mexicans with sweeping hats, and more and more Tunisians. Jude Bellingham also came. As an advertising figure in front of a sponsor's arena, his larger-than-life body outshines part of the festival. The DJ plays what you play. Best of Bravo Hits, The Final Countdown. Long queues in front of the stands. Grids show the way. Behind the press tent is a huge ashtray with lighters chained to it. "It's crazy," says one: "Smoking is okay, but alcohol isn't?" On the premises, the spectators proudly present their beer.
Out again. Before Gianni Infantino arrives. He's about to talk. The assembled FIFA veterans around Lothar Matthäus will present the World Cup. Good mood. "Exit only", the megaphone is still crackling. The Corniche subway station will remain closed. In addition, there is a great photo opportunity for the Instagram generation. A small path covered with umbrellas. Everyone takes pictures. No cops here. Just a couple of security cameras.
Skyscrapers tower at the end of West Bay. One is lit up in the colors of the Qatari flag, the Commercial Bank features all participating countries as a light installation, and beyond that are the towers of Qatar Energy towering over everything in this glitzy artificial world on steroids. Metal gratings on the floor again, blocking the paths. Some break and despair. One kilometer as the crow flies becomes five kilometers on foot. "My name is Clive! You can trust me," says a helper to a distraught Brit who is stumbling from cage snake to cage snake. "The bus drives over there." He doesn't drive. Always detours that lead nowhere.
Nobody knows where a bus is going, although there are always buses going on the other side of the bars. A few migrant workers are walking in the opposite direction with large nets and in blue overalls. Fireworks illuminate the darkness over the water. In the center a huge ring of fire. He spits in all colors. A bus is driving somewhere. Cruise ships anchor at Old Port Doha. The police patrol the waters. A Qatar Airways plane turns east over the bay. Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman lands at the airport. Everything is enlightened. Bright light veils the darkness. The eve of the football World Cup in Qatar.