This has been my eighth (men’s) World Cup since joining adidas in 1991 and it has been by far the most polarizing tournament I’ve ever experienced. While most people have been watching on from afar, I spent the last week in Doha and as a result I’d love to share some of my reflections on the FIFA World Cup 2022™ in Qatar.
1. Doha brings the (football) world together
This is a World Cup of many firsts: the first in the Arabic world, the first in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, the first hosted basically in one city only, Doha. This creates a very special atmosphere because you meet fans from all over the world in the streets, in the shopping malls, in the metro, around and in the stadium.
It builds a condensed international community. In fact, this internationality is very common at the Olympic Games, since they’re always hosted by one city. It’s not common at football tournaments as there the event is usually spread across multiple venues in a country.
While our hotel hosted the Uruguay squad, it also accommodated many fans from Mexico, Argentina, the US, Canada, England, Wales, and just a few from Germany.
2. Football means (almost) everything
It is fascinating to see how much atmosphere fans can bring to the stadiums – especially those from Latin America and Africa. They’ll be singing and dancing an hour prior to the game. They bring their unique flare during the game and celebrate for another 90 minutes after the match (if their team has won).
If I were FIFA, I’d make sure even more teams from those continents can participate. Oops, they did this already: the next World Cup will be played with 48 teams instead of 32.
3. Football is truly global
TV figures in Germany were down from the very beginning (and will only go down further with the departure of the German national team), but TV ratings across the globe are up significantly as more and more countries and regions tune in to the World Cup. Online, on adidas.com we give away match balls during every single game. So far, consumers from more than 190 countries have signed up and participated in the raffle. You can’t get much more global than that.
4. The World Cup brings out the best of adidas
The World Cup doesn’t only bring together fans from around the world, it also brings together the global adidas family.
It gives us the chance to work as one team to make this tournament a success for our brand.
Kudos to our team from the Emerging Markets which has led most of the preparations for our brand’s on-site presence at this year’s event. You’ve done a fantastic job!
5. It’s a privilege to work at a World Cup
I mentioned it already: this was my eighth World Cup and I have attended many more major sport events for – and with – adidas. And the passion doesn’t stop. On the contrary: every time I go, I feel privileged to work at these events and to be so close to the action.
I still remember going to my first Olympic Games as a young and rather un-experienced adidas PR manager in 1992. It was a dream come true. Last week, I met a couple of young adidas colleagues in Doha, working at their first major sporting event, and I was very happy to see how excited they were about this opportunity and how much they enjoy being part of the adidas World Cup community. Keep the spirit up, team!
6. Human rights must be a decisive factor in selecting a host country
There’s no way to talk about this year’s World Cup without talking about the topic of human rights. The conversations around this year’s tournament clearly show that the human rights situation in a country applying for a World Cup must be an important factor when deciding where the tournament is held.
Having spoken to several experts (reporters, politicians) on the ground last week, it’s clear that there have been some improvements to worker’s rights in Qatar in the build-up to the event, but, of course, we know more needs to be done and progress must continue after the event.
So, with a mixture of feelings and learnings from my journey to Qatar, I’m now back home. But I will continue to follow the action from a distance, keep my fingers crossed for the best (adidas) team to win and continue to offer hope for more inclusive and sustainable World Cups in the future. With Germany out: Vamos Argentina! Vamos Messi!