x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Let the critics be, the Gulf is in the spotlight

From South Africa 2010 to Qatar 2022, the show of underdogs TP Mazembe at the Club World Cup underlines the point that "it is not the critic that counts but the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."

A revolution is upon us. TP Mazembe, a football team from a country less known for competitions on the pitch and more for its conflict diamonds, has the once in a lifetime opportunity of becoming world champions when they face Inter Milan in the Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi. The Congolese team have overcome some impressive competition, Pachuca from Mexico and Internacional from Brazil, along the way.

With an annual per-capita income of around Dh730, Congo seems ill-equipped to develop or attract soccer stars. In addition to signing African prospects, TP Mazembe and its owner Moise Katumbi, rely mostly on homegrown talent. And now it is paying dividends. Whatever happens in Saturday's final, TP Mazembe, the African Champions League winners, have already made their mark.

Their appearance in the final is a fitting end to a year where an African nation hosted the World Cup for the first time. South Africa 2010 was a decade in the making, and confounded its naysayers at every turn.

Qatar now plays a similar role as it prepares for the 2022 World Cup. Perhaps they can take inspiration from one of Nelson Mandela's favourite quotations from Theodore Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."