Ex-Qatar sports journalist’s book tries to cash in on FIFA World Cup

By Sudeep Sonawane
Surat, December 18, 2022

Some people write a book because they have a good story to tell. Some write for money. Some write for popularity. Some write for creative pleasure. Some do not know why they write a book. N D Prashant, arguably, fits into the last category.
Recently, Pitch Publishing, based in Chichester, West Sussex, published his book Qatar 2022: The Tiny Nation that Dreamed Big with a high price tag of £14.99.I guess he did not think much while writing the book’s title which uses American spelling (dreamed instead of dreamt). Worse, Qataris, particularly HH Sheikha Moza, do not like people using adjectives like ‘tiny’ and ‘small’ while describing Qatar. I’m wondering whether to congratulate him or feel sorry for his publisher!
Has he written this book? Obviously not! Many people have ‘contributed’ to his book. I say this because he has aggregated reports published by news agencies and newspapers. Barring the first three of the 31 chapters – Acknowledgments, Introduction and My Journey – nothing is original. He inflicts 352 pages of already published information on the reader.
Perhaps, the author wanted to ‘aggregate’ a book on any topic on Qatar. He admits to this in the first line of his book. “This book has been my secret desire since the day Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup.” Note, he writes, ‘this book’ not, ‘writing this book has been my secret desire…’ At least he is honest!
Maybe Prashant did not want to miss the opportunity major sports events, like the FIFA World Cup, present to journalists. Perhaps, he felt compelled to write because he lived in Doha for a few years. I met with him while he worked for Gulf Times newspaper. I worked for The Peninsula newspaper in 2007 before I moved to Qatar News Agency in 2010. We talked a lot at press conferences, events, and while we played cricket for Doha Scribes’ team in the Qatar Cricket Association’s league on the scorched ground in West Bay.
I wrote the above information to let readers know that I know Prashant well. Like me, he too comes from Mumbai although our professional paths did not cross there. I know his journalistic abilities and limits. I told him several times “you have a nose for news far better than a German Shepherd”. Incidentally, he now lives and works in Bonn.
Out of his league
Having a nose and a restless drive to hunt for sports news does not qualify anyone to write a book. Especially on sensitive and controversial topics that need meticulous research backed by interviews. His wish to ‘write a book’ throws him into realms clearly out of his league.
One glance at his book’s index page reaffirms my opinion. It swings from pearl diving, history of oil and its trade, the British Empire, Asian Games, football in Qatar and its World Cup bid, HH Sheikh Moza [the current Emir’s mother], women’s empowerment, Arab Spring, Al Jazeera, carbon emissions, economic blockade against Qatar, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Covid-19 among other blank verses.
The book’s acknowledgement page further confirms my view. Prashant thanks his friends, family, and colleagues. A long thank you note was justifiable if it was his memoirs, not for a book on Qatar’s football World Cup bid and preparations. Most readers would expect new information or the untold story.
Contentious topics
Prashant dives into contentious topics that have, arguably, no place in a book on Qatar’s goals to host FIFA World Cup. He writes, “The former [UAE] has had mixed relations with Qatar. The latter [Germany] is looking towards the gas-rich nation to pull them out of a rut at a time when the Russians are holding Europe to ransom, threatening to shut off gas supplies following their invasion of Ukraine.”
He claims, “Qatar 2022 is an insider’s view of the country’s ambitious plans for the FIFA 2022 World Cup, and the journey that led them to become the first World Cup hosts in the Arab world. From desert tribes to pearl divers, to being custodians of the third-largest gas reserve in the world, there are many fascinating facets to this great nation. The book reveals how an influx of wealth transformed the country’s aspirations to become a global powerhouse.”
Recycling published information
Far from an insider’s view, this book is nothing but a rehash of already published information on Qatar’s history, energy, sports, football aims, and the royal family tree of current Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Prashant does not reveal anything new on Qatar’s World Cup bid, the challenges, work of its Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. He has not interviewed officials for the book. He has just repeated published quotes key officials. Quotes of Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 CEO Nasser Al Khater, and Qatar Football Association Chief Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani are missing. He has not analysed the role of former AFC Chief Mohammed bin Hammam and why the western media relentlessly targeted Qatar since the time it won the bid to host the World Cup. He has only aggregated published reports.

Prashant admits to this in a disclaimer, saying, “The references in the book are in the public domain and are also based on the experience of the author as a journalist in the region, covering mainly sports”. Aggregating information from published reports available on the Internet is not exactly writing a book. Perhaps, the author would consider giving Reuters, AFP, AP, other newspapers, and Wikipedia – the sources of his information – and Google Search a part of his book’s royalty.
Prashant would have done well to include chapters on the preamble to Qatar’s bidding process, key officials, budget, hotels, restaurants, public transport, and lobbying with FIFA officials. At least four chapters detailing Qatar’s domestic tournaments as well as the reasons for Qatar’s success in hosting Asian Games, AFC Cup, WTA and ATP tennis, Qatar Open Golf, Motorsports, Equestrianism, and World Cups of handball, table tennis and aquatic events.
Rambling on oil and politics
Instead of focusing on sports topics, his book rambles on Qatar’s history, culture, oil trade, politics, international and regional affairs, GCC countries’ bilateral ties, Qatar’s internal affairs, women’s empowerment, migrant workers’ rights, and how evil Qatar Airways is as an employer. These are contentious topics, perhaps, good for an academic book. How silly to include these topics in a book on football world cup story! Clearly, he has bitten more than he can chew.
I suspect some people with an axe to grind against Qatar may have pushed the chapters ‘The Migrants Issue’ and ‘Sheikha Moza and Women’s Empowerment’ into his book. He dedicates 19 pages to migrants issues. Even the heading of this chapter is incorrect. It should be ‘Foreign Workers Issue’ because GCC countries are not destinations for migrants unlike, say the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia.
In HH Sheikha Moza chapter, he needlessly flags Qatar’s cultural practices pertaining to women, among other issues and puts his foot into his mouth. Here’s a good example on page 119. As per the guardianship rule, women must obtain permission from their male guardians – father or husband – to marry, work in many jobs, study or travel abroad until a certain age, or receive any form of reproductive healthcare. Qatari women taking permission from their husbands to marry is a first for me! Qatari men can have more than one wife, but women taking second husband! I know some women inform/take permission from parents and siblings to marry.
This book lacks proper citation. Barring a few references to newspapers and agencies to validate his points, there is nothing that can give credibility to his work. I laud Prashant’s maiden effort, but he has only succeeded in irritating Qataris, Emiratis, Saudis, Iranians, Russians, and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker! I hope Prashant does not plan to travel by Qatar Airways in the future!

[Sudeep Sonawane, an India-based journalist, has worked in five countries in the Middle East and Asia. Email: [sudeep.sonawane@gmail.com]

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