Saturday, September 23, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 7, 1445 H
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World cup mania


When the World Cup Started, Sham the helper appointed himself as our sports’ analysist and gained the nickname Sham Shobair (Shobair is a famous Egyptian goalkeeper from the 90s who later became a football program host.

He’s famous for being ill-tempered, shouting and attacking other guests occasionally. Pure entertainment!). Being the youngest in our household, Sham’s enthusiastic multilingual football commentary falls on deaf ears. When he starts his blabber in front my 82-year-old dad -who was never a football fan- he’d brush him off with a hand wave before asking slyly: “How’s your girlfriend?”.

As for my mom, she couldn’t care less and would occasionally interrupt him with orders “Pass me the onions!” “Chop the garlic finely!”. Yet her attitude would never deter him as he turns to the two semi football fans that understands his enthusiasm: my brother and I.

Just pop the question: “So who’s playing today?” and he’d get into a long monologue about famous team players and their chances of winning based on their performance in previous world cups. Sham is a big fan of Messi and follows all European football league games; and that of cricket too. He was truly disappointed when Saudi beat Argentina and kept sulking the minute my brother and I teased him about it: “So Sham! What happened to your World Cup winning team? Where was Messi then?” Of course, these questions provoked a long commentary and analysis of teams’ performances that made my mom cut him off and tell him to pray for their win! Sham’s fanatic enthusiasm is shared among his own countrymen, where many literally lose their lives for the love of the game. His great-uncle died of a heart attack while watching a football match. Sham also reports football related deaths that varies between seven and ten daily. These deaths also include stabbing incidents between different team supporters especially among young men. To me, hosting the World Cup in our part of the world has been an interesting experience. It started with plenty of negative Western reaction that was shared openly on social media and news channels. It seemed that France 24’s main mission was exposing Qatar’s corruption, while completely ignoring the multi-million dollars’ worth of Qatari investments in Paris, not to mention their Qatari-owned football club Paris Saint Germain.

Ironically, while Europeans preached freedom of believes and tolerance, they failed to practice it. They kept imposing issues that were against our religious beliefs; especially those related to homosexuality. The number of threats were ridiculous, especially those received on social media of hanging rainbow flags and wearing similar arm bands or t-shirts.

When German team members covered their mouths during their photoshoot, Arab spectators did the same on their following game while holding pictures of Mesut Özil. Moreover, Arab sports’ commentators covered their mouths and waved their hands goodbye when Germany left the championship. Videos of English supporter storming in Qatar’s airport in their crusader costumes was intimidating, given their bloody history in this region were hundreds of thousands of Muslims were massacred in the name of religion.

But all these minor Western attacks didn’t affect most fans who were here to enjoy the football festival. Videos of the Saudi’s reaction to their first win ever over Argentina was priceless especially the slogan chanted: “Where is Messi? We humiliated him!” (Trust us Arabs to come up with rhyming slogans!). Many videos shared on WhatsApp are of foreign fans blending into the culture by wearing local outfits and trying typical Gulf dishes which reflects the World Cup’s true message: respecting others and celebrating cultural diversities. (To be continued...)

Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.

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