Alan Hubbard

"Expect the unexpected", gushes the latest TV commercial extolling the virtues of Qatar.

Well, who would have expected the World Cup to be hosted by a tiny desert outpost where the international game is as alien as a snowflake?

But here we go, for better or as I fear, worse.

The great footy festival is just over a fortnight away, not that we seem to care very much. 

There seems a distinct absence of the excitement and anticipation which usually precedes the tournament every four years.

Could it be that this World Cup is taking place in the wrong place, at the wrong time?

There are many, particularly in England and Wales, who see it as an unwelcome seven-week interruption of the traditional season, with several stars likely to be absent recovering from injuries sustained during regular matches before the break.

There are many too, who remain astonished and perplexed that the Gulf state with its sweltering climate, disregard of basic human rights and where some 6,500 underpaid and overworked imported migrants have died helping to construct the necessary but state of the art facilities, should be hosting this sporting showpiece.

Yet there are millions of reasons why Qatar was the unlikely recipient when the choice was made a decade ago - and all of them were dollar bills which it is widely believed were stuffed into the back pockets of certain members of FIFA.

Qatar was awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup under a veil of corruption ©Getty Images
Qatar was awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup under a veil of corruption ©Getty Images

Of course bribery and corruption has been endemic in sport almost since it began, notably football.

Back in the seventies when I edited a sports magazine, a German club named Offenbach Kickers were embroiled in a bribery scandal. 

I suggested they should be renamed the Offenbach Handers.

I doubt Qatar will know what's hit it when many thousands of thirsty fans descend on capital Doha - and vice versa. All visitors have been warned to be on their best behaviour and observe the lslamic country's strict, somewhat puritanical laws. Middle Eastern prisons are particularly unpleasant places and sentences tend to be lengthy.

Any gay fans among them must be particularly concerned as homosexuality is banned, and punishable by imprisonment. However,  they have been assured by that they wil not be arrested for holding hands in public. Other displays of affection are taboo.

No kissing, no cuddling , no necking - and definitely no hanky-panky. Even for unmarried heterosexual couples. 

Those checking into a hotel, even if pre-booked, may be asked to show a marriage certificate otherwise they will not be allowed to share a room. Although perversely this rule does not apply to same-sex couples.

Sex outside marriage is unlawful and punishable by up to seven years n jail.

Qatar is set to host the FIFA World Cup in November and December ©Getty Images
Qatar is set to host the FIFA World Cup in November and December ©Getty Images

Sobriety seems to be the spice of life in Qatar. While alcohol is not banned for foreigners it can only be consumed in selected hotels, and not in the streets or stadiums. And at a price. Half of lager and a packet of crisps won't leave much change from a 100 Qatari Ryal note - just over £20.

Food is also expensive, although it's actually very good. You won't find a hotdog stall in the stadiums, but a camel burger can be quite tasty.

No carousing in the streets either.

Hooliganism is unheard of and any offending heads will be cracked pretty quickly by the cops.

There's a dress code too. Those hardy chaps from Newcastle should note to keep their shirts on. Going bare-chested is another no-no. Even when the temperature reaches 100 degrees or more.

T-shirts are permissible but not singlets. Shorts can be worn, but should be almost knee-length, covering the thighs. 

Presumably an exception will be made for the footballers.

No swearing either- even in English which is widely spoken.

A set of rules are in place for foreign tourists at the FIFA World Cup ©Getty Images
A set of rules are in place for foreign tourists at the FIFA World Cup ©Getty Images

A word to the WAGS. Bikinis are banned, and don't even think about thongs. Shoulders should always be be covered.

The upside is that the locals are friendly and hospitable; and if you are lucky enough (or rich enough) to be travelling to Doha by Qatar Airways you will be flying extremely comfortably on one of the world's best airlines - even in economy.

But remember this is loadsamoney land. There are things to do in the world's richest nation per capita apart from watching the football - again at a price of course. 

Especially if you fancy a spot of falconry or sand surfing. A desert Safari, perhaps?

My serious recommendation is a visit to the fabulous Olympic Museum in Doha, where you can even trot around a mini running track and stand on a podium like a medal winner.

So, welcome to Qatar. Or maybe you are just welcome to it.