Next year in November, Qatar will host the most followed international sports tournament, the FIFA world cup. Before we go on, let’s define some terms, as FIFA shrewdly avoids meddling in the ‘soccer’/ ‘football’ semantic. Let’s turn briefly to established history. Rugby and ‘football’ share unique medieval origins and split up during the 19th century into the different regional variants we know today. To wit: the rugby leagues, football/soccer in most of the world, and the North American & Aussie versions, with the permission of New Zealand, Ireland (Gaelic football), and any other nation we were about to offense. As we are far less shrewd than FIFA, we will use the term ‘football’ when referring to the discipline, promising to avoid it as possible, so nobody’s feelings get hurt. First, because it is the most popular sport of the lot by far, so popular that it doesn’t need petty nipple outing scandals to get global media attention. Its most publicized transgressions are financial. After all, its governing body, FIFA, is based in Switzerland and local lore rules. Second because of all the ‘football’ versions, ‘soccer’ is the only one played exclusively with the feet, goalkeepers notwithstanding.
Single tickets are not yet for sale, but hospitality packages are, starting at around US$ 950 for a single group game, and selling fast. The price doesn’t include the flights. Add zeros as suited for 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 finals and a bigger number of guests… Those packs are tailored for – and grabbed by – the corporate world in their majority. To paraphrase John Lenon, you’re more likely to hear the rattling of MacBook pros, or whatever device is the current must-have among executives, than the banter of regular fans in the FIFA World Cup these days. Talking about price, is it possible to use cryptos to assist to the 2022 world cup? Qatar, the host country, is not particularly crypto-friendly, at least on appearance. Cryptocurrencies are banned since December 2020 by the Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority, officially to counter money laundering and terrorism financing, which Qatar itself is widely accused of practicing. That doesn’t prevent Qatari rulers from receiving warm welcomes in many capitals around the globe.
Especially in Paris, which football team PSG (Paris Saint-Germain) is owned by Qatar’s head of state Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani since 2011. The club has its own crypto, aptly named the PSG Fan Token ($PSG), a secured utility token powered by the Chiliz network, a proof-of Authority blockchain built on top of Ethereum. Argentinian football superstar Lionel Messi’s sign-on deal with the club – estimated at 30 milion euros – was paid in part in $PSG, which saw its trade volume exceed 1.2bn$ a few days after the unexpected transfer from Barcelona was announced. Not exactly peanuts… Fan tokens are becoming an increasingly common way for sports clubs to squeeze more money out of the fans’ pockets. Are the Qatari rulers a bunch of hypocrites, selling crypto tokens worldwide and banning them back home? Not so fast. Binance, e-Toro, Kraken, and other exchanges are operating in the country, surprisingly. We didn’t verify the info ourselves, but there are enough different sources to believe in its accuracy. The crypto ban in Qatar is therefore not total, although we gathered that fiat withdrawals are possible only through the SWIFT system. Paying with cryptos seems a big no-no, however, at least at the present date, and if some local establishments brave the rule, they surely won’t advertise the fact.
So a crypto football – or soccer, don’t wince – fan wishing to travel to Qatar for the world cup will have to use denomination currency. Plane tickets & accommodations are not a problem, there are quite a few booking engines accepting cryptos out there, such as Travala, or Elude. Now is probably a good time to book the trip as most cryptos have more or less regained their spring values, and before the prices get really crazy. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are now major travel destinations on their own right, boasting excellent air connections, superlative hotels, plenty of sun, over 500km (300 miles) of coastline, the best shopping center in the world, and what must be an amazing mix of oil & finance executive types in western or traditional attires, top-models, celebrities, and influencers. We didn’t mention the over-exploited Asian workers that helped build the stadiums needed for the happening in record-time under a 45 C (113 F ) heat. On purpose. They will most probably be confined to their compounds as usual. Quite unlikely they’ll crash the party.
Now let’s look at the possibility of buying the actual tickets in crypto. As we mentioned before, they are not on sale yet. FIFA states on its website they only accept US$, anyway. But any huge sports event brings a lot of p2p reselling action in its tow. Check your favorite forums and DYR. If you want to splurge and buy one official hospitality package, you might be able to do so in cryptos, depending on the sale agent operating in your country. You can consult the list on the FIFA’s website and give it a try.
Now a disclaimer: as a life-long FCB (Football Club Barcelona) supporter, it’s possible that the author of these lines bears a grudge against PSG, the Qatari-owned Paris club that bought off Messi, the best football player of all times. It’s even possible that FIFA really cares about football. All this doesn’t matter… The moment the ball starts rolling in those spectacular, air-conditioned, futuristic stadiums, football fever takes over. The fans will be glued to their TVs or smartphones, and whether in Qatar or home, they’ll be texting, arguing, and hugging with friends, family, or total strangers. Will Messi (sorry, Argentina) win it? At 35, this will be his last opportunity. For Qatar and the $PSG, a gold-plated one. Bets are opened!
By Obo Khan @cryptotravelmagazine.com