All eyes on Qatar.

Now that the dust has settled on the not really all that tragic at all tragedy of not winning the European Cup it is surely time to look forward and be positive. After all it’s the first time we’ve nearly done as well as we did 55 years ago, and in terms of nearly doing as well that’s nearly impressive. However, there are clearly a few kinks that need to be ironed out in English football, namely: what is Jack Grealish’s hair for; how did we suddenly forget how to take penalties having only just remembered how to take them in the last World Cup; and the great big elephant in the room that is the return of low to mid level football hooliganism, as demonstrated recently by some of the thickest human beings that have ever set foot near Wembley Stadium. How we address these issues only time will tell but I think it is perhaps quite handy that we get them sorted pretty sharpish because the next World Cup is already on the horizon and this time the rules might be quite a bit different.

It came as quite a shock when Qatar won their bid to host the 2022 World Cup. I remember lots of people wandering around like a bomb had hit nearby. David Beckham looked like he had just stumbled into a quadratic equation and didn’t know how to get out again. They had some reason to be a little surprised because Qatar has about as rich a footballing heritage as the Liberace Scarf Museum; it is like arranging to host a bestiality exhibition in a McDonald’s play area. What everyone clearly understood but were unable to say is that Qatar is a very rich nation and therefore if they want something they just buy it. And once they’d paid off the chairman of the board and any other slick shysters that had a bit too much clout for their own good they set about a programme of construction work and infrastructure development so vast it could only happen in a country where, as the old phrase goes, money talks and cheap imported labour dies falling off ladders or buried under concrete every day. Ultimately you kind of have to admire the Qataris because they understand what power is really all about – the kind of power that means that for the first time ever the World Cup has been moved to another season because playing football in a Middle Eastern summer would be almost as hot work as weight lifting on the sun. Qatar has certainly had to adapt quickly. For instance it requires quick adaptation to, and I’m just pulling this out of thin air really, cover up a very questionable human rights record or persuade the rest of the world that it doesn’t really have an absolutist, monarchial constitution that leans heavily on, oh I don’t know, let’s just hazard a guess and say Sharia Law. Certainly Qatar doesn’t punch well above its weight on the global stage thanks to an almost unnatural gift for flower arranging.

But what does this mean for our courageous footballing lions and their loyal, proud supporters next year? Well, for anyone travelling out there to watch a match there will be a huge sigh of relief when they learn that the crime rate in Qatar is very low. The crime rate in Qatar is very low because even the slightest hint of criminality that does not emanate from state sponsored thuggery is crushed immediately, with many petty criminals promptly relieved of various appendages until they totally understand the error of their ways, while those who prefer to dabble in more substantial illegal undertakings actually get undertaken, after a savage beating just for good measure, and buried in a big hole in the desert. And it is this manner of treatment that awaits some of our cheekier fans: as Gary Lineker talks over a pre-match warm up Qatari state cameras will replace the footage with scenes of bare chested Englishmen staggering about in the streets outside, holding up their badly tattooed and sunburnt arms and screaming as they stare at bloodied stumps where their hands used to be while what is left of the mates from their Ryanair flight to Doha are kicked inside out by masked security ‘experts’ and dragged off to a ‘detention centre’, hopelessly screeching for the mothers they will probably never see again on account of the unusual Qatari medical condition of having their eyeballs ripped out and fed to the dogs. The infidel scum.

Qatar is otherwise a very warm (fucking boiling actually) and welcoming country in many senses and they fully understand that some fans will find themselves thirsty and in need of refreshments from time to time, and this is why they cordially invite anyone seeking alcohol to find the bar of the nearest specially licenced luxury hotel where they can purchase a very narrow range of beverages at very competitive prices, starting at 177 Qatari Riyal (approx £35 sterling) for half a pint of weak bitter. It is worth remembering that some English fans are so stupid that they will happily plunge their families into financial ruin in a single afternoon just to get hammered enough to look like a complete twat come kick off (for a match they will sadly miss the last 87 minutes of when they accidentally look at a security ‘advisor’ in a funny way, have a black plastic bag placed over their head and are marched down to the underground carpark to have an emergency fingernail removal procedure – note: due to expected medical supply complications all emergency medical procedures carried out on foreign fans next year will take place without anaesthetic). However, it’s not all good news and anyone caught drinking in public, smuggling alcohol into stadiums or hugging each other in a suspicious or homosexual manner after a particularly good goal will be instantly lasered in half vertically by one of an army of military drones (that will meticulously patrol every second of every activity for the duration of the tournament) and their remains donated to the Doha Stray Cat Sanctuary for ‘processing’. Any fucking idiot found with a lit flare clamped between their buttocks will be used for covert medical experiments until they die, possibly months later, from pain.

And it won’t just be the fans who will find it a shock because the footballers will have to roll with the punches too. Any tackle that would normally result in a free kick will be dealt with by asking the offender to pick their favourite foot, which will then be sawn off live in front of tens of thousands of silent, aghast spectators (needless to say anyone who doth protest too much will be entitled to emergency dental work and require an artificial voice box for the rest of their life). A yellow card offence will be met with the offender being hanged, along with a team mate of his choice (yes, until dead; later on crowds of angry women will be invited to spit on their bloated corpses), from their opponents cross bar, and the offendee will have their ears cut off and anus sewn up for allowing themselves to be fouled in the first place. Finally, should anyone be unfortunate enough to receive a red card they will be instantly taken into custody once they have left the pitch, and then driven to a security ‘rehabilitation unit’ where they will be forced to watch their wife and children being horrifically tortured before the whole family is burned alive; footage of which (from multiple angles, just like goal replays) will be projected onto all big screens for the full duration of half time at every subsequent match. As a reminder.

Even though the Qatar national football team are already 58th in the world rankings, and could easily qualify for next year’s World Cup for the first time ever if they wanted to, they have been saved the effort as they miraculously automatically qualify as the national team of a host nation. You may think that the chances of the 58th best team in the world even getting past the group stage would be pretty slim but it turns out that their squad is soon to be bolstered by some new faces. Who knew that Harry Maguire’s second uncle was born in Qatar and therefore qualifies him to play for the national team if he ever wants to see his parents alive again? Similarly, many Belgians will be fascinated to learn that Kevin De Bruyne’s mother is in fact one Adelmira Al-Mohannadhi and that he will be playing a key role in central midfield for Qatar, whether he likes it or not. Fans all around the world will watch a nerve wracking and blood soaked sequence of matches, in which some of the best footballers ever seen will need to be hospitalised with ever more elaborate injuries, as Qatar defy the odds, eventually making it to the final where they will play a brave, exhausted and brave England team of brave lions. The match will ebb and flow (Harry Kane will score in the first half and The Queen will be sent his head in a box, for his insolence) but eventually the sight of the the English players homes ablaze and one by one their pets murdered on the front lawn will result in a stunning 9-1 victory for the plucky Qatari team, and of course a big win all round for football. It’s the future, I think, and please don’t tell me that this new style of World Cup won’t be exciting, if not also slightly nauseating. Football truly is coming home, to mighty Qatar. I wonder when they’ll be bidding for the women’s World Cup?

G B Hewitt. 28.07.2021

Thanks to a table of loved ones the lunch after a night before for silly giggles and inspiration.

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