Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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England’s WAGs win the World Cup hotels battle with Banana Island Resort’s £6,000-a-night chalets

England WAGs already seem to have their towels laid out on some of the best sunbeds in Qatar, adding to the feeling that missing out on this World Cup would be particularly bad.

Partners of English and French players have booked at Banana Island, a luxury resort 25 minutes by boat from the Doha coast, according to the resort’s sales manager. Those with children have their eyes on the largest five-berth chalets. Perks include a helipad if they prefer that to the motorboat, with white leather seats, free dates, and cold washcloths.

These £6,000 chalets built on stilts in the Arabian Sea don’t offer a complete escape from Hoi Polloi.

Anyone can take the boat and pay £100 to enjoy the resort’s pool and beach. But with a cinema, surf pool with wave machine and scuba diving courses, it all tends to contribute to the feeling that England’s partners are way ahead of the pack when it comes to finding Group B accommodation.

Gareth Southgate’s players have arguably secured themselves the best home base by escaping the traffic and high rises of Doha and morphing into the cool class of a hotel in Al Wakra’s traditional souk district, made from former pearl fishermen’s chalets thick, heat-resistant walls, offshore from Doha.

Pictures of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and co. on an inflatable unicorn at this location will not be in the newspapers. They’ve never installed a swimming pool there because they want to preserve its “heritage” status — a holdover from just 70 years ago, when Qatar was just a small patch of sand, before lucrative oil and liquefied gas existed on the fringes of the Arabian Sea.

But the five-star Tivoli hotel being built on the beach will keep it real for Southgate players. You’ll wake up to the old wooden beams of the former cottages hanging overhead and watch camels passing by if you decide to dine at the numerous seafront restaurants within walking distance of your rooms.

The old souk market is adjacent to the hotel with a fleet of gold buggies to explore the gold and bird markets. Southgate will be pleased to know that hotel staff will do the driving.

The hotel will be closed from the end of October to prepare to welcome the team. At this point there will no longer be a separate dining area for shisha smokers. Painstaking work to clean the tile mosaic on the community fountain where players can hang out was seen by Sportsmail last week. The most expensive rooms here are typically £250 a night.

That felt a lot less last minute than the scene surrounding the newly completed Wales team hotel at Skyrise West Bay, which is not yet open and is in the middle of a building site.

The Delta City Center Hotel has been fully furnished and is a short half-hour drive east of Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, where Wales have the advantage of playing all of their group matches.

But unless construction is completed quickly, excavators, dug roads and sidewalks will greet players as they settle into the glass skyscraper. Sportsmail last week found a makeshift security hut in the middle of a building site between the hotel and the seafront Corniche, with a lone employee there.

The US team, also in England’s group, have the poshest residence – the Marsa Malaz Kempinski – although they have to share it with residents. It’s too big to close the whole place to them.

Americans can tap into the psychological boost of knowing they are playing on the green, green turf of home. The turf for all World Cup stadiums comes from the state of Georgia.

“The American grass seed gives you a more robust playing surface,” Aspire Turf’s David Graham, who is responsible for the Qatar 2022 pitches, told ESPN. “With the climate and conditions in Qatar, the pitch wouldn’t hold together without the right grass seed.”

The existing pitches were removed two weeks ago and the new seed planted, with water pumped 24 hours a day through pipes laid under the pitches to ensure the optimum growing temperature.

Game temperatures should not be an issue due to the decision to move the tournament to November, which typically means gray skies, sunny spells and highs of around 23°C (73°F).

But sophisticated air conditioning systems, planned at a time when the tournament would be held in the scorching June heat, are also in place to ensure on-pitch temperatures are regulated for the players.

Underground sensors that measure heat and humidity allow for this level of control, along with pitchside vents calibrated to blow out puffs of air that players coming to the throw-in won’t feel. Vents at seat level also ensure fans can watch games at 21-22°C.

Managers may feel their media duties are a little less onerous as, for the first time, all pre-game press conferences will be held at the same venue, at the upscale Pearl Resort north of central Doha.

Some players will voice their feelings about the human rights abuses that have entailed all of this. The human cost will always affect the competition that will soon unfold.

It is impossible to contemplate the feats of architecture and engineering that went into building the stadiums and hotels without thinking of the immigrants who labored to build them and the streets, bridges and concourses in the sweltering heat , before returning to the dirty, cold blocks of flats. Many died.

Most of the workers will be gone by government order for the duration of the tournament, although gardeners and cleaning staff are expected to remain.

The sight of them laying sidewalks and watering grass on the Corniche two weeks ago in the scorching late afternoon heat was a reminder of the effort.

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