The muezzin of the Musherib mosque calls for prayer.
The streets of the historic center of Doha are packed with passers-by, especially Qataris, Saudis, Argentines, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, Pakistanis, Kenyans, and since a week ago, Moroccans as well.
They seek the pleasure provided by the spontaneous spectacle of the human agglomeration.
It's Sunday and the grand souq of Waqif is a maze of trinkets.
It smells of turmeric and agalochus perfume.
The most visible product in the exhibitors are flags and shirts of national teams, not football clubs.
"There are only Boca Júniors shirts left," explains a shopkeeper, who points out that the supplier is the same for the entire market.
"From PSG we have nothing."
The World Cup is in its final week and hardly a trace of the shield and insignia of the kingdom's most famous property in the soccer industry can be seen in the Qatari capital.
Acquired by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011 for around €50m, Paris Saint-Germain is a ubiquitous and elusive presence in the city.
A subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority, QSI is headquartered in the Ooredoo Tower, one of the less flashy skyscrapers in the West Bay neighborhood's hub of architectural extravagances.
If the PSG manifests itself, it is not explicitly.
It is their players, stars that transcend institutions, who do not stop attracting attention during the World Cup.
Neymar because he concentrated the drama of the unexpected elimination of Brazil;
another because he responds to the name of Lionel Messi, the most admired soccer player in the Islamic world;
another, Kylian Mbappé, because he meets market share and sporting conditions to occupy the space that Messi will leave when he retires;
and the last one, Achraf Hakimi, because he has become the unexpected hero of the tournament, representative of the pure energy of Morocco, pioneer of Africa in a semifinal.
"He is the best right-back in the world," Mbappé warned before the World Cup, not caring that Pavard and Koundé, the French full-backs, were offended.
After the round of 16 match against Poland, last Monday Mbappé took advantage of the day off to visit his friend at the Moroccan concentration hotel in West Bay.
Hakimi's exhibitions with Morocco proved him right.
Getting into midfield to make superiorities with a frequency and a stride worthy of the best long-distance runners in the Atlas, the defender will record his participation in the annals of the most hermetic defenses: zero goals against Belgium, Spain and Portugal.
🇲🇦👑🏽… @AchrafHakimi pic.twitter.com/fDCyfMI7LM
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) December 6, 2022
Mbappé cultivates a good friendship with Hakimi.
The same does not happen to him with Messi or Neymar, with whom the relationship never exceeds strictly professional limits.
His business also runs through different areas.
Mbappé re-signed for PSG in June after his family and his agents were invited by Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
According to sources close to the player, in addition to an unprecedented contract, the Qatari head of state proposed to increase his income in geometric proportions by linking the image of the French striker to Qatari flag companies, such as Ooredoo or Qatar Airways, in addition to promoting
with some of the multinationals in which its sovereign wealth fund participates, such as Volkswagen, Porsche, Barclays or Credit Suisse.
Mbappé is the future.
Neymar is no longer in the Cup. But his image is the most recurring appearance in the Qatari media.
His status as the most expensive footballer in history (222 million euros paid by PSG to Barcelona in 2017) made him the emblem of Qatari power in football and the advertising flag for him on his way to the World Cup.
The jewel in the crown went to the National Bank of Qatar, which developed the most viewed campaign during the tournament.
it is repeated in a loop on televisions and on subway screens.
“Dream big”, says the slogan of a luminous story populated by children who build “the city of the future”, the idyllic place where Neymar will live imagining that he scores goals from rabona while winking at the fans of the golden Lusail stadium.
The PSG shirt is missing from the entire ad, but this is an irrelevant detail in the soft power propaganda plan Qatar embarked on when it began investing in football.
Like the World Cup, PSG has become part of the majestic story that Qatar projects as a country.
As much as the club has founded an academy in Doha, adding fans in the Arab world is not a priority.
The idea is more subtle, as its president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, acknowledged in
: “We will be here [in Paris] for a long time.
My goal is that in a few years we only have Parisians in the team."
Consulted in this regard, Fabien Dilem, PSG's representative for Asia, did not reveal the figures he manages on the club's monitoring in the region.
It would seem that PSG, as an institution, does not arouse passions among the majority of Qataris.
When asked about his football affiliation, the spontaneous response of Mohamed, a Qatari policeman, resembles that of many of his countrymen: “My team is Real Madrid.
But I also like PSG”.
Sharmin, a taxi driver born in Bangladesh, points out that passions are generated by characters: "In Bangladesh we love PSG because Messi in Bangladesh is a national idol."
The street crowds caused by Argentina's matches in Dhaka have an echo in Doha.
14% of the population of Qatar was born in Bangladesh.
The metro line that goes from the Lusail stadium to the Al-Wakra stadium has been, for weeks, a convoy of trains loaded with fans, mostly Arabs and Hindustanis, mostly dressed in a shirt: the light blue and white of Argentina.
Messi's prestige permeates PSG, and, by extension, Qatar, whose government has had to put up with the Argentine star signing an advertising contract with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Tourism, an ever-threatening neighbor.
Does not matter.
The owners of PSG rub their hands.
Although the club's crest remains invisible in Doha, success is assured by the passage to the semifinals of Hakimi, Messi and Mbappé.
If the World Cup in Russia was won by Mbappé, the World Cup in Qatar will be won by PSG.
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