Soccer (football) is the most popular game in the world

You’d better get used to it, the beautiful game, that is. Not heard the phrase before? Well you’re in good company then because very few Americans probably have. At least not in connection with soccer – or football as it’s known to the rest of the world. You’ll certainly hear the phrase, probably ad nauseum, if you intend to live and work in Qatar over the next few years.

It’s old news now, of course, that Qatar is to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup football competition. Probably what’s not so well known, however, is the $4 billion dollar stadium building program which the country is currently embarking on in order to stage the competition. And when it comes to spending, particularly on infrastructure, no country on the planet does it better or in such spectacular fashion as Qatar.

According to the US Commercial Service, the building program will see the construction of nine new eco-friendly, cutting-edge football stadiums and the expansion of three existing stadiums, too, all equipped with high-tech, carbon neutral cooling systems employing clean renewable energy sources. Not only will this be a first for the World Cup stadiums, training sites and fan zones, it’ll also help allay fears over the summer desert heat.

The weather, especially the heat, is one of many things US expatriates will have to get used to in their new life in Qatar. They’ll also find the Arab culture to be a totally unique experience, but one  which they’ll quickly adapt to. Fortunately, not everything is so different. The banks in Qatar, for example, are much the same as the banks back home, offering similar financial products and services including current accounts, online banking, personal loans and credit cards, and the ubiquitous cash machine we’ve all come to know and love.

Yet, only a few decades back, such technological innovation would have been practically unheard of. The tiny Persian Gulf state was little more than an impoverished backwater with a basket-case economy which up until then had depended on two principal industries, pearl hunting and fishing. But with the introduction of the Japanese cultured pearl onto the market during the early part of the 20th century, these industries simply collapsed.

It could have stayed like that for generations but for the discovery of high-grade oil in 1940 at Dukhan, on the western side of the Qatari peninsula. However, the Second World War intervened and delayed any further development and exploration until almost the end of the decade. But by then the export of oil was beginning to make a defining mark on the economy. Indeed, Qatar and its citizens have never looked back since.

Now many would-be expatriates from all around the world look longingly at Qatar and at the high wages on offer there. But it’s not only the money and the high income they hope to earn which attracts many thousands every year. It’s the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by so many which one day they naturally hope to emulate. This, after all, is the expatriate dream. In Qatar, the dream is very likely to come true.

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