The Qatar emir expressed gratitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in organizing the 2022 World Cup. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Putin met in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Thursday.

The issuance of thanks comes at a curious time. The 2022 World Cup starts in roughly five weeks, and controversy is imbued within the tournament. For example, Denmark released its World Cup kits with a clear message against human rights violations in Qatar.

Of course, the fact it is Russia is also a poor look for Qatar. The Russian invasion of Ukraine led to upwards of 6,000 civilian deaths alone, according to the UN. In the sporting world, Russian clubs and national teams faced sanctions and suspensions from competition. That includes suspension from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Regardless, Qatar’s emir said he is “proud” of his relationship with Putin in preparations for the tournament. He alluded to the 2018 World Cup, which Russia hosted.

“Russia made a great success in organizing the 2018 World Cup,” the emir said. “Russian friends have provided great support to Qatar, especially in terms of organization, with the organizing committee of the 2022 World Cup.”

Putin seconded the relationship, adding his confidence in the success for Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup.

“[We are] doing everything we can in terms of transferring the experience of preparing for the World Cup.”

Qatar thanks Putin before World Cup

The thing is, there was never a specific explanation for how Russia is ‘transferring’ that experience of hosting the World Cup to Qatar. The Guardian mentioned that one area of similarity is the necessity for fans to have an ID card. Those attending the World Cup in Qatar must have a Hayya card, which has personal information, vaccination status, tickets and more.

This is the first World Cup in the Middle East. Therefore, it is something that is unfamiliar to the international world.

The very nature of the World Cup in the Middle East draws the ire of fans. The difference in culture and religion makes this World Cup different from any other. Concerns over acceptance, western civilization’s fan culture, alcohol and other facets of soccer culture permeate across the tournament.

To top that off, Qatar’s hosting and construction of stadiums has critics from across the world.

Linking the competition to Russia seems like a way to create more bad publicity for the country. Bosnia and Herzegovina scheduled a friendly with Russia, and even that met backlash from Bosnian players.

The World Cup begins with Qatar kicking the tournament off. The hosts take on Ecuador on Sunday, Nov. 20, from Al Bayt Stadium.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Russian Look