The world’s biggest sporting event, the FIFA World Cup, which kicks off within hours, is a welcoming departure from the turmoils our country and the rest of the world face.
Well aware that our challenges will remain even after the final whistle is blown, the 2022 World Cup offers us a chance to pause and celebrate humanity over the next four weeks.
All eyes will be on Qatar, as this tournament distinguishes itself from others.
For one, it will be the smallest nation to ever host the World Cup, both by population - 2.9 million - and size.
Currently the 164th largest nation in the world, Qatar’s 11,586 km-squared area puts it in comparative comparison with nations such as the Gambia, Jamaica and Montenegro.
The oil-rich state is hosting 32 competing national teams and hundreds of thousands of travelling fans.
This small-scale World Cup has the potential to create a warmer, cosier atmosphere among fans and less travelling for teams competing in the event.
Already, the famed fan zones and interaction of international supporters are among the World Cup’s most well-publicised quirks.
Another unique element is the time of year the event is being held.
It is not unusual for temperature levels to touch 46 degrees Celsius in June and July when the World Cups are normally held, which would not only be a risk for fans but especially for players.
It means for the first time in its history, FIFA has switched the tournament to the winter season, when Qatar’s temperatures will be around 26 degrees Celsius.
It has also allowed the nation to introduce new technology by building air-cooled stadia, fan zones, training sites and other outdoor areas for tourists.
So far, nothing of that calibre has been seen in world football and it could set a precedent for future events in climatically hostile regions.
Controversies too have played a role in turning more eyes toward Qatar.
The timing of a Netflix documentary exposing degrees of impropriety within FIFA and the deaths of hundreds of labourers in the construction of stadia and supporting infrastructural projects raised eyebrows ahead of the event.
Qatari authorities, therefore, will have to prove more than others, why they are worthy of being this year’s hosts.
The fact that two of the world’s greatest footballers, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, are joining an elite club of just a few other players to have played in five World Cups, has only added more interest to the games.
With neither having won a World Cup before, the opportunity for either of them to capture the most coveted prize in football before retirement lies in the strength of the Portugal and Argentina teams this time around.
All in all, we are in for an interesting set of 64 games over the next four weeks.
Guardian Media will be broadcasting the World Cup across our television, radio and digital brands so that T&T residents can be part of this historic tournament.
Despite not having a team in Qatar, we join the rest of the country in welcoming the 2022 FIFA World Cup with the words of the tournament’s anthem, “We’re better together,” as we celebrate with citizens from the kick-off tomorrow to the final on December 18.