World Cup Kicks off Today at Qatar

World Cup Kicks off Today at Qatar

| Sunday 20 November 2022

AFP published this article:

The World Cup kicks off with host nation Qatar facing Ecuador on Sunday as the month-long football showpiece finally gets under way after a tortuous 12-year build-up dogged by off-field controversies.

Foreign government officials, VIPs and celebrities will be in the crowd as the first World Cup staged in the Arab world opens at the Bedouin-tent inspired Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, 50 kilometres (31 miles) outside of Doha.

The venue is one of an array of brand new stadiums built for the tournament, which has cost Qatar an estimated $200 billion.

South Korean K-pop star Jung Kook will headline the 30-minute opening ceremony, which organisers said Sunday would reflect themes of "humanity, respect and inclusion".

World Cup organisers hope the start of the football will quell the controversies that have overshadowed preparations for the tournament ever since Qatar was named as host nation in a shock FIFA vote in 2010.

Qatar's treatment of migrant workers and the Gulf state's human rights record have dominated the pre-tournament headlines.

On Saturday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino went on the offensive in an aggressive rebuttal of the opprobrium aimed at the event, arguing that much of the criticism was unfair.

"This moral lesson-giving -- one-sided -- is just hypocrisy," Infantino said.

"I don't want to give you any lessons of life, but what is going on here is profoundly, profoundly unjust."

Controversies look certain to rumble on into the tournament even after the action starts.

Several European nations taking part -- including England, Germany and Denmark -- have said their players will wear rainbow-coloured "OneLove" armbands in a gesture of solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.

The move raises the prospect of disciplinary action from FIFA, who on Saturday revealed plans to make their own alternative armbands available to teams.

Infantino insisted that all World Cup visitors would be welcome regardless of sexual orientation.

"I've been speaking about this topic with the highest leadership," he said. "They can confirm that I can confirm that everyone is welcome."

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