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Qatar: Excitement, Apprehension Build as World Cup Decision Nears

Fans rally to support Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid. Photo credit: http://www.qatar2022bid.com/

Two weeks ahead of FIFA's December 2 decision on which country will host the 2022 World Cup, fans in Qatar are trying to keep up with a flurry of speculation about its chances and are turning to the world wide web for comfort.

For the past few months, media reports have alternately identified Qatar as a long shot and a favorite of the FIFA inspection team, for a variety of reasons.

The country is flush with cash, and dazzled the world with images of its nine concept stadiums, which would be fully air-conditioned and operate on solar power. Additionally, if awarded the bid, Qatar would be the first Arab nation to host the World Cup.

But concerns over the desert country's tiny size and scorching summers, which can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius, continue to grow. A FIFA report released earlier this week branded Qatar as the only “high-risk” candidate among the nine bidding countries for 2022. As one FIFA executive put it, “You can air-condition a stadium, but I don't see how you can air-condition an entire country.”

That comment, made by Chuck Blazer, the sole American member of FIFA's executive committee, set off a storm of responses on Twitter.

@lastingvalues said:

Dude is from the US and right now its US v. Qatar for 2022. Obviously he's gonna say “Qatar sux.”

@qatar65 noted:

QATAR will b a great host for the world cup 2022…Qatar will make it the best ever I'm a Palestinian born in Doha and LOVE QATAR

And @zippyapplelips responded:

…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. RT @dohanews FIFA exec – “You can air condition a stadium, but I don't see how you can air-condition a…country”

The official response in Qatar was more muted initially, and then less so, reports one sports correspondent.

@james_Corbett said:

Qatar bid team furious. Casts serious doubts over their chances.

On the bid's Facebook page, even more people voiced their support.

Syedahmed Quadri said:

Qatar will win as it will be the first Arab nation to host such a prestigious world event. Qatar has resources and the zeal and enthusiasm to host this event. Thumbs UP

Some were more pragmatic.

@a77med stated:

too bad last summer was skin blistering. Can't argue against that.

And others, like the London Telegraph‘s chief soccer writer, Henry Winter, were just plain rude.

@HenryWinter said:

“Best bid for 2022 is Australia. Obvious. Legacy, fun, facilities, atmosphere, it has to be Oz. Qatar too steamy & soulless. Fact.”

Following FIFA's disheartening report, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson threw his support behind Qatar's bid, saying he was particularly impressed with the country's plans for its climate-controlled stadiums.

After the finals, Qatar said it will dismantle and ship them to developing nations to be reconstructed for their own use.

A few other developments this week:

Qatar hosted an exciting friendly match between Brazil and Argentina on Wednesday, which the Wall Street Journal reported would give the country “another chance to endear themselves to the leaders of the two countries’ federations—both of whom sit on the 24-member executive committee that makes the final vote.”

Indeed, Argentina's football coach did express support for the bid.

On Twitter, @abdalla_abdalla said:

RT @PeninsulaQatar: Argentina coach backs #Qatar’s World Cup bid http://bit.ly/9F95nl (expand) #worldcup

But fans held mixed opinions on the game.

On the popular social forum Qatar Living, commenter HDY wrote:

After the spectacular football match between Argentina and Brazil I would like to thank the organizers for their efforts and of course the security guards for their friendly attitude. As a result, Qatar is surely capable of sponsoring the world cup 2022 in a very professional manner and will successfully secure all its necessities in terms of playgrounds, infrastructure, side events, family atmosphere and hospitality.

On the opposite end, commenter whyteknight replied:

Are you kidding me??? They first let in the locals out of line, then all the “Families” means anyone accompanied by a female.. Meanwhile they were pushing the single guys away from the entrance not letting them enter even though we were standing in the line for over an hour while the ones accompanied by females could simply walk in and enter.. Only after there were no females left did they allow us to enter, that too as if a huge favour was done to us..

Finally, on Thursday, FIFA's ethics committee cleared Qatar on separate corruption and collusion claims.

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