After ascending the steps of Saud Bin Abdul Rahman Stadium to catch a glimpse of the clean green grass, the prospect of playing football became visibly unattractive. The stifling heat makes it unpleasant to be outside for more than 10 or 15 minutes at the height of the day.
With white buildings appearing above the low stands before disappearing into the desert mist and the call to prayer echoing with the chimes of 4pm, the setting is a reminder that this World Cup will be very different.
The competition in Qatar Experiencing controversy and human rights concernsas such the athlete Explore it When visiting the eight stadiums in the country While preparing for the world is coming to town.
And after I visited the stadiums, the athlete He thinks it’s also worth taking a tour of some of the World Cup training venues for more information on what the players may encounter when they arrive.
When the athlete Visits In July, an empty car park surrounds the stadium where England will train. There are many food and drink outlets open even though there are not many people around.
They cater to visitors who stop in their air-conditioned cars for a sandwich or an iced coffee in the heat of the day. One coffee stand staffed with two Filipino workers, Cecil and Ken.
Kane, of course, shares her name with England captain Harry who will soon be training on the field behind her stud. At first, she said that she had not heard of him, although after she was shown a photo that unconvincingly indicated that he might sound familiar. She is not a big fan of football, and like many of her countrymen, she prefers basketball.
The two women have no idea the England national team will be here, but recently watched a game at one of Qatar’s new stadiums after tournament organizers distributed free tickets to locals to test the facilities.
Qataris make up a small minority of the population of a country that has imported labor extensively in recent years in preparation for the World Cup. Although this transformation is impressive, it came at a human cost. Migrant workers from many countries have been exploited, injured and in the worst cases lost their lives.
Saud Bin Abdul Rahman Stadium is not one of the new developments, but an older and smaller facility. It usually hosts Al Wakra Club, which finished third in the Qatar Stars League last season and won it in 1999 and 2001.
Few of the team’s current players will be familiar outside of the Middle East, but former World Cup winner Frank Leboeuf, who played 10 games for the club in 2004-05, includes previous stars. former Premier League players Youssouf Chibo and Alan Goma; And the skilled striker Alan Waddell, cousin of the England legend Chriswho spent a short time here in 1986.
The site has training facilities and a gym. There is ping pong in the lanes. There is also a canteen with plastic chairs and a large screen patterned wallpaper that can be used soon for tactical instruction.
They are all very cheerful, but not luxurious, and would be a far cry from the facilities in Premier League The clubs, although things may look very different now compared to the summer when there was still construction to be done.
Qatar is only 100 miles from top to bottom, making it the smallest country ever to host a World Cup.
The vast majority of the population lives in the capital, Doha, where seven of the eight stadiums are accessible via the Doha metro system. The eighth, the house, is a 25-minute drive from the nearest metro station.
All but two of the World Cup teams will be based in and around Doha.
An exception to the Doha bloc is Germany. The 2014 winners head to the Zulal Wellness Resort located in the northern tip of the country, an 80-minute drive north of the capital.
Belgium Initially envious of their European rival’s training camp, they thought it would be best to travel a little further each match to take advantage of a common hotel and training base.
Roberto Martinez’s team eventually found another option at the Salwa Hilton in the country’s southwestern region, a short distance from Qatar’s border with Saudi Arabia, a country that also qualified for the tournament.
The rules were allocated according to a first-come-first-served system, and every training and hotel rule had to be approved by FIFAIndependent Monitoring Service.
Teams are asked to put the first, second and third options, and whoever asks which option is first and the most qualified gets their choice.
This does not rule out last-minute chaos – in 2018, Brazil They changed their minds a week ago. That didn’t help them, as they were knocked out 2-1 by Belgium in the quarter-finals, four years after a humiliating 7-1 defeat at home to Germany In the semi-finals.
Each union has a different thought process—whether it’s cost, proximity to the city versus space, or even superstition—some countries will not determine their preferred base before qualifying as a “jinx.”
Getting away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Doha is attractive to some.
This is very much the case for the England team’s hotel, the Souq Al Wakrah Hotel Qatar from Tivoli, on the shore of the Persian Gulf, just a short drive from the stadium where they will train.
When the athlete Visits, we are greeted inside by the staff and we can take pictures despite our sudden appearance.
The venue is luxurious with low-rise lodges giving players plenty of space to relax between training sessions and matches.
There are wellness rooms, a well-equipped gym and the hotel opens directly onto a wonderful sandy beach. Fans hope to share breakfast with them Harry Kane or Raheem Sterling Will be disappointed – rooms have been unavailable for reservation for months.
It is a “dry” hotel. The topic of alcohol was discussed endlessly in the lead up to the tournament, with many restrictions governing its sale in Qatar.
Those who want a drink won’t find it impossible but things will be different than other tournaments. Alcohol is readily available in hotel bars but is not served outside, for example in restaurants or at the airport. There will be a fan zone in the middle of Al Bidda Park where alcoholic beverages will be served, albeit at limited times.
Even in such a cozy and cool setting, it’s hard to escape the big questions hanging over this World Cup – a Guardian investigation earlier this year found that security guards working in Doha paid exorbitant recruitment fees and were working 12-hour shifts. Only £1.18 an hour.
Half an hour’s drive north on the other side of the outskirts of Doha is another stadium. This is somewhat larger but looks somewhat similar from the outside to where England will be training.
With 4x4s parking for iced coffee, wide highways stretching into the desert and stifling summer heat, Doha’s western suburbs feel a bit like the US southwest.
If you stare and ignore the mosques, as well as the signs in Arabic and English, you may be in Arizona.
The stadium is usually the home of Al Gharafa, another Qatar Stars League team with a illustrious past, winning seven league titles, but not since 2010. Famous names he has played for the 1998 World Cup winning club include Marcel Desailly and Dutch star Wesley Sneijder. And Costa Rica legend Paulo Wanchope. Current players include Gabriel Perez, on loan from Benfica, and Jonathan Kodjia, formerly Aston Villa and Bristol City.
The stadium is supposed to be heavily guarded when the USMNT arrives, but in July it’s easy to walk off the street, without an invitation or advance announcement, and look at the stadium and its buildings.
Although the Middle East is in constant turmoil, Qatar is generally a safe country, and the US military has its largest regional military presence at the massive Al Udeid Air Base just 30 minutes from the stadium.
There is an indoor gym on the same site and facilities include a large gymnasium (above), offices and rest areas. There is also a tactical board with rows of chairs on which players can listen to coach Greg Berhalter’s instructions. With smooth marble floors and plenty of space inside, the surroundings are noticeably larger than those in Al Wakrah, although the medical room needed some work in July.
Just north of Doha, Lusail is a ‘planned city’ that has been mapped and built over the past two decades, with a stunning skyline befitting a sci-fi movie.
The stop before Lusail in the gleaming Doha Metro is Qatar University.
Visiting In the height of summer there is hardly anyone here and parking spaces remain empty under the elevated train tracks heading towards Doha and towards the new Lusail Stadium.
The university is huge and the facilities are new and shiny, although the security guard is not allowed this time the athlete Roam freely around the indoor facilities.
This exotic location will soon be hosting the world’s best soccer player of all time, as Argentina’s team led by Lionel Messi will be based here for the tournament. Two other teams at the end of the tournament work, Spain and the Netherlands, are expected to compete here as well, but they are training on different pitches.
The complex is vast so there will be room to train all three without getting in each other’s way or listening to tactical instructions.
These venues will likely be heavily guarded during the tournament itself to prevent curious fans from disturbing their heroes as they prepare for some of the biggest moments of their lives.
It is difficult to guess yet which stadium, beachfront hotel or campus will become known to fans around the world.
But when hundreds of the world’s best soccer players are in this mid-sized city, we’re sure to see some behind-the-scenes drama in the training facilities as well as on the field.
(Top image: Simon Holmes/NurPhoto via Getty Images)