NEW DELHI – Qatar’s Islamic roots were on display on Sunday during the opening ceremony of the Fifa World Cup. What captured the world and enthralled the spectators was the recitation of verses from the Holy Quran by 20-year-old Quran reciter Ghanim Al Muftah, who is also a Fifa World Cup ambassador.
“Oh mankind, indeed we have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another,” Ghanim said. This is probably the first time that a Fifa World Cup opened with Quranic verses.
As the country’s Emir opened the World Cup, he kissed his father’s hand and welcomed the world to football’s biggest event, the first time it has been staged in the Middle East.
“From Qatar, from the Arab world, I welcome everyone to the World Cup 2022,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said. “How lovely it is that people can put aside what divides them to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together.” Then, fireworks exploded from the roof of Al Bayt stadium.
Ghanim, born with a rare condition that impairs the development of the lower spine, appeared alongside Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman. The American actor sat on the pitch beside the Qatari qari (a person who recited the Quran with the proper rules of recitation).
Bollywood actor Morgan Freeman narrated the opening segment of the 2022 World Cup opening ceremony, titled ‘The Calling’, telling viewers: ‘We all gather here in one big tribe’.
“How can so many countries, languages and cultures come together if only one way is accepted?” Freeman told the crowd.
“When you call here, we welcome you into our home,” Ghanim said, referencing the ‘bayt al sha’ar’ or tent that nomadic bedouins of the Arabian peninsula once used for shelter, which inspired the stadium design.
“I heard something beautiful. Not just music, but also this call to the celebration,” the actor began.
Freeman later addressed the crowd, saying, “Football united nations and their love for the beautiful game. What brings together nations also brings together communities.”
The American actor was joined by dancers, singers and past World Cup mascots on the field. South Korean pop star Jung Kook performed “Dreamers” as part of the ceremony.
Qatari singer called ‘Dana’ wore a traditional dress, abaya, and a battoulah (leather face-covering worn by some women in the Gulf region) as she filed onto the pitch with other performers.