In his poem Die Lorelei, Heinrich Heine touched on the stillness of the Rhine in his portrait of the legendary mermaid who lured sailors to their doom on the rocks along the river. Just shy of 200 years after Heine's masterpiece, no siren songs have been required to attract footballers to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Thirty-two squads of 26 players will be present and ready to parade their collective wonderfulness in front of local authorities, who are famous for their conservative approach to gay and transgender people, and renowned for their featherlight touch concerning the welfare of migrant workers in the country.
In siting the World Cup in the Middle East for the first time in its 92-year history, Fifa, which organises the event, has failed to enhance its reputation in the way that it did when South Africa hosted the show in 2010.
That fest – won by Spain – was the first time the World Cup had been held on the African continent.
Despite the crowds of naysayers and pessimists, Fifa emerged with some lustre for pursuing its drive to take the event into all regions.
Qatar – which is estimated to have spent around 200 billion euros on the 22nd edition of the World Cup – gushes with far more cash than South Africa.
But yet it has been hampered by bad vibes and enduring jibes that no amount of petrochemical money can quell.
Voices from yesteryear
Less than two weeks before the start of the tournament, Sepp Blatter, who was Fifa supremo when Qatar was selected, said the choice was a mistake.
Read more on RFI English
Fifa approves Infantino's 48-team World Cup expansion plan
Benzema's Ballon d'Or triumph gains presidential seal of approval
Police investigate extortion claims by French football star Paul Pogba