palace intrigues and the history of a country, behind the scenes of a stadium bewitched by Messi

Argentina left Australia on the way to Ahmad Bin Ali, who was Qatar’s strongman at the time of independence. The story of him.

Ahmad Bin Ali. This is the name of the stadium that served as the setting for the match that Argentina beat Australia, with an outstanding Messi, for the round of 16 of the World Cup. This pitch, one of the ones I had yet to visit in Qatar 2022, is about 20 kilometers west of downtown Doha and was and will be the home of Al Rayyan FC, one of the most popular football clubs in this small country and which for a while he enjoyed (and got tired of) James Rodriguezthe fantastic Colombian who appeared in world football from Banfield.

This is one of the stages that was completely recycled for this exotic sporting event, although the organizers detailed that 80 percent of the materials from the previous stadium structure were actually used. It can be reached via the Green Line of the Metro and is at the gates of the desert, to which it pays homage with its peculiar design.

So far the definition that could appear in any brochure. But now comes the story behind the story.

The Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, the arena where Argentina and Australia played. Photo: REUTERS

Why does it have that name? Ahmad Bin Ali Al Thani was the emir who ruled the destinies of Qatar at a historic moment. During his tenure, between 1960 and 1972, he began to explore and exploit an innumerable number of oil wells that allowed the country to change its economic and financial status. And, years later, in September, he was the one who signed the letter of independence from the United Kingdom. A hero. But…

Ahmad Bin Ali was little able to enjoy the sovereignty of Qatar because six months later he was overthrown in a surprising although bloody coup d’état whose mastermind was his cousin, Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Thani.

Khalifa Bin Hamadwhich also has its own stadium in Qatar – it is the home of Al Ahli, in the Nuaija neighborhood, although it did not reach the rank of World Cup player – took advantage of the fact that Ahman Bin Ali was on a hunting trip through Iran and stayed in power in the form definitive.

Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the father of the current emir and the son of the one who overthrew Ahmad Bin Ali.  Photo: AP

Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the father of the current emir and the son of the one who overthrew Ahmad Bin Ali. Photo: AP

First he had been finance minister and then he was the prime minister. It is claimed that in reality he was the strong man, the brains, of the government and that Ahmad Bin Ali was something like a testimonial emir who enjoyed the pleasures of mixing with the jet set more than making strong decisions.

That’s what they say, of course. But, it is known, history is written by those who win. For this reason, the coup d’état was taken by the world as a done and (not) right coup d’état, but here, according to the books, it was considered as another succession in this centenary dynasty of the Al Thani, which is a of the three families that have managed this territory since it was a simple and modest village.

Ahmad Bin AliAfter the betrayal, he decided to go into self-exile in Dubai along with one of his wives, who was the daughter of a powerful man from that emirate. He died at the age of 55 in London. Khalifa Bin HamadFor his part, he was the one who laid the foundations of this modern Qatar that these days is the world capital of soccer. His idea was his, among many others, of opening the borders to obtain skilled and unskilled labor to populate and empower the country.

Khalifa Bin Hamad He died a little while ago, in 2016, at the age of 84. But his reign ended in 1995 the same way he began. Yes, the turns of life made him leave as he arrived. By force.

Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani greets Gianni Infantino.  Photo: AFP

Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani greets Gianni Infantino. Photo: AFP

It is that his son, Hamad bin Khalifa -yes, the order alters the name of the emir-, began to gain a leading role in the government and also at a geostrategic level in the turbulent decade of the 1990s, at the time of the Gulf War. And in that 1995 he took advantage of the fact that his father was in Switzerland to proclaim himself emir. As had happened just over two decades before, no one was frightened by the violent exchange. Khalifa Bin Hamad took refuge in France for a while and in 2004 he returned to his country, no longer holding grudges.

Hamad Bin Khalifa was a decisive player in the region. He allowed two US military bases to be established, but at the same time maintained a good dialogue with Iran and played an important role during the Arab Spring by financing rebel movements in Libya and Syria. He was also the mastermind behind Al Jazeera, one of the world’s largest media groups. However, in 2013, at the age of 61, he broke with the history of coups by abdicating and handing over power to Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thanihis fourth son.

Tamim Bin Hamad is emir of the World Cup. At the opening party, the Al Bayt Stadium roared every time he appeared on the big screens and was fired up by his speech. Neither the thousand-year-old Messi nor Neymar nor Cristiano Ronaldo have achieved so much so far in this World Cup in the Middle East. In the not too distant future his name will also be a stadium.

Doha, Qatar. Special delivery.

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