Qatar sees itself armed

The Club World Cup serves as the emirate's mini dress rehearsal for the 2022 World Cup. Alcohol is only available in the fan zone.

December 18 was probably the most important day of the year for Qatar. The small but wealthy emirate first celebrated its national holiday with a parade and fireworks in the capital Doha. Then, a few kilometers away, the winner of the Champions League Liverpool met the Egyptian superstar Mohamed Salah for the first time at the Club World Cup in Qatar – another highlight in the history of sport not so long of the country.

The English team's 2-1 victory in the semi-final with their German coach Jürgen Klopp against the Mexican CF Monterrey team gave a taste of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in three years. At the Club World Cup with continental champions and a Qatari team, the emirate tried the real thing for the first time in real conditions. Although much smaller than in three years: seven teams instead of 32. A few thousand foreign fans instead of hundreds of thousands of visitors. Two stadiums instead of eight.

The start of the Club World Cup did not go smoothly. As the Education City stadium was not ready in time for the tournament, it was canceled as a venue. All matches are scheduled to be played at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha this week, which was particularly annoying for Klopp as he feared lack of space. Upon his arrival in Qatar, he withdrew his criticisms and spoke of "brilliant" conditions.

Apart from that, Qatar is making every effort to appear as a good host of the Club World Cup. The opaque FIFA World Cup 2022 award for the little emirate has come under heavy fire, particularly in Western countries. The host, however, continued preparations for the billion dollar project.

As of this year, the new metro operates on three lines, which also leads directly to the final stadium of Lusail – in driverless wagons with plenty of space, padded seats and fast internet connection. Qatar announces the organization of a World Cup with great comfort and short distances. With the exception of one site, all stadiums are located in Doha or in the immediate vicinity.

Despite the breakdown of the stadium during the Club World Cup, the construction of the seven new arenas is also progressing. The Al-Bayt stadium in the north of the peninsula, which is under construction in the middle of the desert on the outskirts of the town of Al-Chaur and looks like a giant Bedouin tent from the outside, is almost finished.

But the question is: how will little Qatar, with less than three million inhabitants, face one of the biggest sporting events in the world? This week, fans of the Brazilian Flamengo team celebrated peacefully and joyfully in their blood-red and black jerseys in Doha's traditional bazaar district, Suk Wakif. But there were only a few dozen, not tens of thousands.

During the Club World Cup matches, there were photos that the organizers did not like at all: fans of Esperánce Tunis, known as particularly fanatical, had smuggled pyrotechnics in the stadium and set them on fire. Thick clouds of smoke swept across the field.

As for the atmosphere in the World Cup stadiums, a lot will depend on the foreign supporters. Qatar itself has no distinct fan culture. During Liverpool's victory against Monterrey, many fans from the region, but also from China, with jerseys and scarves of the British Reds were seated in the stands – the atmosphere among the 45,000 fans of the stadium, which was not completely sold, was due to the small block of Mexicans fans, who continued to sing for 90 minutes.

Beer and other spirits are also banned in stadiums, but fans don't have to do without them entirely. At the Club World Cup, in addition to beer, wine and cider are served in a fan zone for the equivalent of around 6.25 euros per half liter, otherwise gin and whiskey, as originally indicated on the price tags. (AP)