ISLAMABAD: With the FIFA World Cup 2022 in full swing, authorities in Qatar have their hands full with organizing the event. Pakistan has contributed plenty to the tournament from its ‘Made in Pakistan’ footballs to security personnel and even volunteers, who are relishing the experience of helping ensure the tournament, arguably the biggest sports event in the world, goes smoothly.
Since being awarded the right to host the tournament in 2010, the tiny gas-rich country has splurged billions to build luxury hotels and stadiums across Qatar to welcome over a million fans in the country.
To host the World Cup in the Gulf country, FIFA needed interns and volunteers to help organize such a huge event. Many Pakistanis signed up for the opportunity.
Syed Hasan Danish, 26, was working in Pakistan till July this year when his organization, Airlift, shut down. With his family in Qatar, Danish moved to the country and was hired as an operations analyst by ‘Mowasalat,’ which operates public transport in Qatar.
“I have always been a huge football fan and have been following club football since childhood,” Danish told Arab News over the phone this week. “Being in Qatar you need to be part of something to give back to Qatar and football,” Danish told Arab News this week.
“So many nationalities gathering at one place, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Posted at Qatar’s Al-Thumama Stadium, Danish helps out spectators by guiding them to their seats, helping them find the prayer areas and similar places in the venue and helps them with other issues.
His selection came after a “rigorous” process, according to the volunteer.
“Firstly, you fill a detailed, four-page online form from an app if you want to register as an international volunteer,” Danish said.
“Then, you are asked to appear for an online test in which they analyze your skills via multiple games and judge your decision-making and stress-handling skills.”
Once selected, FIFA handles transport, accommodation and food for international volunteers. They just have to arrange for the air fare.
Rimsha Khalid, 25, a student of Islamic Arts at Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University, described her experience as an assistant commentary intern as an “exhilarating one.”
“The work environment is professional,” Khalid said.
“We work hard but also have breaks in between and the chemistry between the team members also helps lift up the mood.”
As a woman, Khalid said, she never felt she was being discriminated against: “I would like to say that the general work environment in Qatar for women is quite safe and women are treated with the utmost respect that they deserve.”
Khalid said her team comprise interns from South Korea, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Zambia, Sudan, India, UK, Belgium and Pakistan.
“[The diversity provides an excellent opportunity for cultural exchange, growth, exposure and helps you to learn better things about other nations and their work ethics which can prove to be helpful in the future,” she added.
Maryam Khalid, 27, a commentary assistant intern at Qatar’s Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, told Arab News the work experience was “excellent.”
“There is a lot of responsibility here as there is no room for error,” she told Arab News.
“However, you also get a lot of support from people here as well.”
In Pakistan, she said, the biggest hurdles that women faced were harassment and reservations from families.
“However, here it is so safe that you don’t even think about any such problems here. Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world for women,” Maryam said.
“We venture out here often at very late times in the night, for cinemas and at beaches or to attend festivals. Never once does anyone touch people or harass anyone or even stare at them.”
Danish rubbished international media’s “wrong reporting” on Qatar and its treatment of women as well.
“There is a lot of diversity here, minor issues are being [deliberately] played up,” he said. “There is a 60-40 ratio of men and women here in Qatar.”
He said “every type of woman” could be found working in Qatar.
“From full abaya-wearing women to women dressed in European clothing. It’s all a nice, mixed-up environment here,” he said.
“There is a lot of openness and you get to learn other people’s culture here.”