Man is used to grief as a correspondent in the Arab world. Apart from the many conflicts, you have to deal with, for example, corrupt officials who make opaque decisions and do everything imaginable that nobody can prove it to them.
You’d rather report on the FIFA World Cup, you think, and set off on your journey full of anticipation for a simple assignment in tranquil Qatar. Only to find out that horror does not sleep in the football stadium either. It just has a different name here: Mixed Zone.
A room where players and journalists chat in a relaxed atmosphere? With the name and as a layman, one could imagine football reporting. How wrong one can be! It starts with the way there. Again and again checkpoints, stop, show your ID, continue.
Well, the people who control here are mostly friendlier than, say, militiamen in Iraq. But they are also more relentless. No chance of phoning a commander who would make sure that an exception was made and that you could go into the area with a number “X” on your press pass that required a number “Y”.
Fortunately, despite the lack of flexibility in the FIFA media regime, the culture shock for a correspondent in the Arab world has been limited. One also waits a miserably long time when the deputy foreign minister appears in Damascus.
And when he comes, everyone rushes at him – knowing full well that he usually spouts meaningless generalities. And in Damascus, too, there are people who have to write down all that nonsense with a deadly serious expression. The sports colleagues, who constantly have to put up with it, say in all seriousness that this is often the case. You can’t expect that from them in the long run!
Maybe write an email to FIFA? But that probably has as much chance of success as a fire letter to Bashar al-Assad. At least that’s what the sports colleagues say. It is said that she hardly ever answers critical questions.