Qatar’s $200billion World Cup stadiums are eerily quiet, lacking in atmosphere and have been battered by sandstorms as they prepare to host football’s showpiece tournament.
The eight stadiums have been plonked in stark surroundings with acres of desert around them which officials have tried to conceal with purple boarding carrying World Cup motifs.
But as sandstorms blew around the grounds today into the faces of migrant workers as they provided finishing touches, there was little sign of the usual fanfare of other World Cups when fans gather noisily in central locations or visit stadiums to take pictures.
Outside the Khalifa stadium, where England open their World Cup campaign against Iran tomorrow, the only people visible were security guards and migrant workers doing some last minute preparations.
At the Education Stadium a fierce wind ripped through a long empty road surrounding as a handful of security staff milled around.
A lone cleaner was picking up rubbish outside the 974 Stadium as some security staff looked on.
A view of the Al Janoub Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Friday as Qatar’s World Cup stadiums appear eerily quiet ahead of the tournament getting underway
There is little sign of the usual fanfare of other World Cups when fans gather noisily in central locations or visit stadiums to take pictures
Outside the Khalifa stadium, where England open their World Cup campaign against Iran tomorrow, the only people visible were security guards and migrant workers
Qatar’s eight World Cup stadiums appear to be eerily quiet, lacking in atmosphere and have been battered by sandstorms in recent days
The eight stadiums have been plonked in stark surroundings with acres of desert around the. Pictured: The Al Janoub Stadium this weekend
A view of the Al Thumama Stadium’s facade in Doha, Qatar. The stadium’s design was inspired by ‘Gahya’, a traditional Arab cap popular in the Gulf countries
One said: ‘I thought it was going to be a lot busier but all we’ve got here are workers and no fans. It’s not a very exciting start to the World Cup’
Things were equally quiet in central Doha and on the city’s metro with little sign of the estimated one million football fans who are believed to be visiting the country for the tournament.
Fans have said they believe Qatar has deliberately given the grounds an eerie feel so as not to attract visitors on non-match days.
Poorly paid migrant workers are houses in rows of shacks close to the stadiums they built and maintain and fans said Qatar did not want the world to witness the exploitation while visiting arenas.
Dutch supporter Eric Anders, 46, who was outside the Al Thumama Stadium where his country plays its first match tomorrow against Senegal, said: ‘Oh Wow! There is nothing to do or see here.
‘There is dust or sand blowing around and it looks pretty ugly. There are World Cup boarding around the area which cover the ugliness, but not very well.
‘We get no beer and we get no party on the way to the stadium. You have to take the metro and then a bus through this area which is just empty.’
Issac Hariman, 29, of Amsterdam added: ‘The Qatari state or FIFA cannot hide. We should not be here in this country which has never played in the World Cup and yet was given it.
‘I was in Russia in 2018 because I love football. Everyone is unhappy with Russia now over Ukraine, but they provided one hell of a party.
‘We danced and sang at every stadium. Here, all you can do is wear a scarf around your face against the sand and then enjoy the football with Netherland victories I very much hope.’
One migrant worker, Ali, 27, from Islamabad said he had helped install seating inside Al Thumama Stadium but was ordered to keep out of sight on match days.
Speaking in Urdu, he said: ‘My friend. You have given me a handshake and all I get from Qatar is that I am a labourer and I should know my place here.
‘I don’t have a ticket for any matches and we have been told to stay away from the fan zone.
‘I don’t feel welcome at this World Cup even though I have worked here for three years.
‘I am a Muslim and I do not drink alcohol. But if the English and the Americans and others want to that should be okay at the World Cup.
‘When I was a boy I watched England and their fans in Germany on television and they should be allowed to celebrate here fully. But there are only stadiums.’
Stadium 974 which will ‘welcome’ Polish and Mexican supporters on Tuesday at the first match, is no different in the greeting it gives off to visitors, unless you are a VVIP.
The stadium at Rass Abou Aboud on the outskirts of Doha, which can seat 40,000 fans, is constructed entirely from shipping containers, similar to those being used by Qatar to house football fans at £185 a night.
The idea is to make the ground sustainable and re-use the containers after the World Cup.
But the steel containers also serve to portray the luke-warm reception fans will receive.
The Al Janoub Stadium, which is around 15 miles outside central Doha and placed as if to deter fans from visiting other than on match days, is close to England’s camp at Al Wakrah.
Disigned by Dame Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016, it can also seat 40,000 people, but its capacity will be cut by 50 per cent after the World Cup as there is little for fans to enjoy in the nearby desert land.
There is a shopping centre and swimming pool within the complex, but when the World Cup party is over, Qatar will remove 20,000 seats as interest in the stadium wanes.
In Doha itself, this is a World Cup city like no other. With very few places to drink and areas for fans to mingle, this is killjoy soccer 2022. Even the fan zone is out-of-bounds to many including those who helped build the stadiums.
Despite spending a reported £200 billion on the World Cup, it is clear Qatar has refrained from giving too much thought to fans’ enjoyment en route and around the stadiums.