Two months before Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, problems have already emerged on the country’s newest and biggest venue.
Lusail Stadium, which has a capacity of 80,000 and cost a reported $767 million to build, hosted its first match ever Friday — the Lusail Super Cup between Al Hilal of the Saudi Professional League and Zamalek of the Egyptian Premier League. But once the match ended, the stadium received a litany of poor reviews from fans who attended, according to Reuters and Doha News. Lack of hydration stations and bathrooms, poor air conditioning and long public transportation lines were the biggest issues fans had with the stadium where the World Cup final will be played on December 18.
Fan accounts from the match were pretty negative:
“This is such a mess,” Eslam, an Egyptian fan who lives in Qatar, told Reuters. “I don’t want to go to the World Cup anymore. Not if it’s like this.”
“I had to carry my young son because he was tired from walking and was so dehydrated,” Mohammed told Doha News. “There was no water at all, the volunteers kept saying ‘I don’t know’ every time I asked how far we have left.”
“I spent 20 minutes looking for the female bathroom,” one fan told Doha News. “For some reason, no one knew where it was. Everyone gave the wrong directions. It was so tiring and frustrating,” another one added.
A spokesperson for Qatar told Reuters that the issues would be resolved before the opening match of the World Cup and that the match helped organizers identify all the problems early. But even those that worked at the stadium were unsure of where things were located.
“Even some ambulances were driving around trying to figure out where they were supposed to be positioned,” one anonymous supplier told Reuters. “We were given the wrong directions over and over and the parking passes we had were for lots that didn’t exist.”
Lusail is one of eight stadiums built throughout Qatar and by far the largest. It will host 10 matches throughout the World Cup, starting with Argentina versus Saudi Arabia on November 22 and ending with the World Cup Final on December 18.
Qatar’s other World Cup controversy
Arguably worse than the condition of the stadiums is how they were built.
Qatar has been accused of exploiting migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal to construct arenas for the World Cup after Amnesty International wrote that workers were subject to extremely poor living conditions, delayed salaries and near-slavery during their employment. The Guardian reported in early 2021 that more than 6,500 of the reported 1.7 million migrant workers died in Qatar since construction began for the World Cup — or an average of 12 people per day – mostly from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino dismissed those claims and downplayed the working condition criticism when asked in May at an event in California.
“When you give work to somebody, even in hard conditions, you give him dignity and pride,” Infantino said, via USA Today. “It’s not charity. You don’t make charity. You don’t give something to somebody and say, ‘Stay where you are. I give you something and I feel good.’ …
“Now 6,000 might have died in other works and so on,” Infantino added, “and of course, FIFA is not the police of the world or responsible for everything that happens around the world. But thanks to FIFA, thanks to football, we have been able to address the status of all the 1.5 million workers working in Qatar.”
We’re still two months away from the biggest event in international football. But the news revolving around the 2022 World Cup is less about the countries competing and more about the country hosting.