'It's all gone to s**t': Qataris now regret hosting World Cup, ex-BBC journalist claims

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group A - Qatar v Ecuador - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - November 20, 2022 General view as empty seats are seen in a stand during the match REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Crowds at Qatar's opening match against Ecuador quickly thinned, spelling a disappointing start to the tournament. (Reuters)

Qatar is facing claims of buyer's remorse over its hosting of the World Cup due to the constant negative publicity it has been receiving.

In a clip widely shared on social media, ex-BBC journalist Jon Sopel said someone who worked closely with the Gulf state told him the country now regrets bidding to host the tournament.

The World Cup has already been mired by Qatar's stance on LGBT+ rights, the poor treatment of migrant workers used to build its stadiums, corruption claims, and the country's lack of any significant football history.

Summing up his insider's take on the country's response, Sopel said on the News Agents podcast that a source close to the Qataris had told him: "Why on Earth have we bothered? We spent £200 billion on this, we are vilified over LGBTQ rights, we are attacked for being corrupt over the manner in which we got the World Cup.

Watch: Former BBC journalist Jon Sopel suggests Qatar now wishes it wasn't hosting the World Cup

“We are seen as kind of Victorian in the labour laws that we have, in the way that guest workers have been treated.

"Nothing good has come to us as a result of this. And this has all been a giant waste of money, and I wish it would all just go away, but it can’t.”

Sopel added that the initial impressions were that the tournament has "gone to s**t in so many ways".

Many people have called for the tournament to be boycotted, and in a live broadcast, commentator and former Manchester United player Roy Keane said: “The World Cup shouldn’t be here, you shouldn’t be here.”

Responding to Sopel on the podcast, veteran journalist Emily Maitlis said before the World Cup, Qatar were the "little kid" of the region, who managed to stay "anonymously rich".

Compared to Saudi Arabia, who grabbed the world's attention with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Maitlis said Qatar "quietly got on with things in a sort of Western friendly way".

Read more: Attitude magazine denounces David Beckham for Qatar deal after Joe Lycett shreds famous cover

Soccer Football - Workers put final touches inside of the Lusail Stadium, the venue for the 2022 Qatar World Cup final, Lusail, Qatar, November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Qatar has faced criticism over poor treatment of migrant workers building its stadiums. (Reuters)

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“And now they’ve blown it all up, right there in the spotlight, and a spotlight only works if it makes you look better, not worse, and right now they don’t know that it does," she added.

Before the tournament kicked off, Fifa president Gianni Infantino addressed the criticism and took aim at European critics of Qatar in a speech in which he declared “today I feel gay” and “today I feel (like) a migrant worker”.

He was widely criticised for his comments.

One of the most high-profile flashpoints since the tournament started was the backing down of some European nations - including England and Wales - over plans to wear OneLove armbands to show their support for LGBT+ rights.

The sale of alcohol to fans at World Cup stadiums was also banned just two days before the tournament kicked off.

And in the opening game, Qatar lost 2-0 to Ecuador on Sunday, with the Al Bayt Stadium seemingly showing thousands of empty seats, spelling a disappointing start to the tournament.

Read more: England fans fuming with 90-second live delay after BBC iPlayer crashes during Iran match

Emily Maitlis discussing Qatar World Cup 2022 on the News Agents podcast
Emily Maitlis discussing Qatar World Cup 2022 on the News Agents podcast

Nasser Al Khater, chief executive of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, has insisted his nation is still excited to be hosting the games.

"Qatar 2022 is finally here and we celebrated with a mesmerising opening ceremony, passion in the stands and exciting football on the pitch," he said.

"Our nation is gripped by football fever and the party will last all the way to the final on December 18."