Doha, Qatar – On the eve of kick-off, excitement is running high among Qatari residents and foreign residents alike. It has been a long wait since the Gulf state got the football World Cup in 2010.

This period has been marked by a frenzy of construction work that has transformed the capital city of Doha and the surrounding areas – bringing its own challenges and opportunities.

With the vast majority of Qatar’s three million residents coming from abroad, the gas-rich country has benefited from the influx of foreign talent, skills and cultures brought by those driven here by the promise of jobs.

So, what do some foreign residents of Qatar think about the FIFA World Cup being held in Qatar? Al Jazeera spoke to some of them to find out.

35 years old Lebanese-Polish, Paul El Boustani
Paul El Boustani [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Build misery

Paul El Boustani is of Polish-Lebanese descent but was born in Qatar and calls it home.

The 31-year-old finance director says he is proud Qatar will host the World Cup, but admits there were many frustrating moments as the country geared up for action.

“One day you’re driving on a road to work and the next day the road is closed unannounced for infrastructure works. That was often frustrating’, he says. “Parking was and still is a big problem due to reduced parking spaces due to construction.”

Bayan Khayari
Bayan Khayari [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

‘Hypocrisy in Western Press’

The Syrian-American Bayan Khayari has been in Qatar since 2019.

The 19-year-old university student says it is significant that an Arab and Muslim country is hosting the tournament, as it allows people in the West to get to know the region better, as not many of them are “exposed to this culture”.

“There is a lot of hypocrisy in the Western press about the coverage of the World Cup. Much of it is rooted in xenophobia and racism,” she argues, referring to negative messages about Qatar in the run-up to the event.

“Hosting the games brings its own challenges, be it Qatar, Russia or Brazil,” she says, referring to the countries that have hosted the World Cup before. “It will always come with its own complications.”

Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record have been in the spotlight ever since it won the right to host the tournament, prompting calls for teams to boycott it outright. Qatari and FIFA officials have hit back at the criticism, denouncing what they described as a “double standard”.

A recent cartoon from a French publication depicting Qatari footballers as “terrorists” sparked outrage on social media, with users calling it “blatant Islamophobia” and “racism”.

“France also has many laws that discriminate against people on the basis of religion,” says Khayari. “Also, Denmark’s players have decided to wear faded jerseys to protest against human rights violations in Qatar. But Denmark has a policy of returning Syrian refugees to Syria,” she added.

Justin
Justin [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

‘Awareness about the importance of sport’

Justin, a 30-year-old personal trainer from the southwestern Kenyan city of Kisii, has been living in Qatar since March 2012.

“When I came to Qatar, I went to school to become a personal trainer. It was not easy, because I had to pay from the small salary I received as a recreation supervisor. Now I earn my living by helping people get healthy,” he says.

Having spent most of the preparations for the World Cup in Qatar, Justin is not shy about complaining about the traffic caused by the ongoing construction.

“What would normally be a 10-15 minute ride turned into 30-45 minutes overnight. It was difficult to meet clients or get to work; a lot of time was lost just being stuck in the car.”

But Qatar winning the right to host the event has brought a lot of positives, Justin notes.

“Since the country really started working on preparation, there has been a lot of awareness about the importance of sport. More and more people come to train in the gym, lose the excess weight and become healthier. It has become a trend and I hope it continues after the World Cup hype has died down,” he says.

37-year-old school teacher Ismael Cadus is a Brazilian-born Palestinian
Ismail Cadus [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

‘Amazing travel adventure in the Middle East’

Ismael Cadus is a 37-year-old Palestinian teacher who was born in Brazil but now lives in Doha.

“Football fans will now be introduced to Arab culture. This is a moment of pride not only for Qatar, but for the entire Arab world,” he said.

“Many travelers from faraway places such as Brazil experience not only the excitement of the World Cup. They can travel to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, the home of the Pharaohs, Egypt in one trip. It’s a great travel adventure in the Middle East,” he added.

The 131-year-old French travel planner Aurelie Mole Coulibaly
Aurelie Mole Coulibaly [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

“Habibi, come to Qatar”

Aurelie, a 31-year-old travel planner from France, says the excitement of the World Cup is felt throughout Doha, but residents faced a number of challenges leading up to it.

“Life has become more expensive, especially rent,” she says. “With the World Cup approaching, most landlords have increased property rents. It’s painful, who likes to pay more rent? Although everything is expensive in Qatar, except gas.”

Aurelie adds that frequent road closures and traffic diversions during the massive infrastructure rush have been a nuisance for residents, but considers it a “treat” to stay in Qatar while the event takes place.

“It’s a huge challenge for Qatar because it’s the first time the World Cup has been hosted in a Gulf and Arab country,” she added.

“But it is the first time in the history of the World Cup that all the stadiums are so close. You don’t have to be on a plane to track a team, you can just hop on a subway. Fans like me who support different teams don’t have to miss games due to travel issues, it’s all made super easy.

“Habibi, come to Qatar and find out.”



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