Connect with us

Sports

USMNT’s ‘unbelievable’ hotel sits on $15B island

The Americans have many reasons for wanting to advance far at the World Cup. Extending their stay at the Kempinski, on a $15 billion artificial island, is among them.

News Agencies

Published

on

[World Cup: Viewer’s guide | Group previews | Top 30 players | Power rankings]

DOHA, Qatar — The half-hour journey from the airport to the U.S. men’s national team World Cup base zips past skyscrapers and then snakes right, onto an exotic island that used to be sea.

Upon arrival last weekend, USMNT players rode past marinas on The Pearl, Qatar’s most exclusive district. They cruised into Porto Arabia and down a two-lane road with blue-green water on either side. They arrived at the Marsa Malaz Kempinski to find waving American flags and unmatched luxury, an entertainment lounge and a private beach.

“Unbelievable,” midfielder Brenden Aaronson said of the accommodations. “It’s world-class.”

Top-flight soccer players, of course, are used to some degree of lavishness. But this, the only World Cup hotel on an artificial island, outfitted by a U.S. Soccer staff intent on meeting every imaginable need, is “one of the best,” forward Tim Weah said. Their lounge boasts big-screen TVs, PlayStation 5s, pingpong tables, a pool table and a putting green, players said.

The broader hotel, meanwhile, touts itself as a “majestic palace” that “exudes both Arabian and European elegance.” During the World Cup, a standard one-bedroom costs $5,163 per night. The palace has an ornate spa, a massive “oyster chandelier” and marble everywhere. It has seven restaurants and four bars; outdoor pools and paddle courts. It is, in its own words, “an island of palatial grandeur.”

The USMNT specifically selected it, and snapped it up before any competitors could, more than two years before they’d even qualified for this World Cup. In September 2019, FIFA presented them and other nations with over two dozen potential pairings of hotel and training ground. Head coach Gregg Berhalter and U.S. Soccer’s longtime director of administration Tom King narrowed the list to three. They traveled to Qatar that month, shortly after friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay, to tour their preferred facilities. They settled on Al-Gharafa SC for soccer and, most desirably, the Marsa Malaz Kempinski for everything else.

King then sat in front of a computer in early October, and pounced immediately when applications opened.

“It was important to try to get it right,” Berhalter said over three years later, at his first news conference here in Doha. “We went to a lot of lengths to make it accommodating, to create the type of environment that the players are used to. … We want to be here for a long time, so we want to make it comfortable for them.”

A view of the The Pearl Doha - Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel, where the U.S. men's national team will stay during the Qatar World Cup in Doha. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

A view of the The Pearl Doha – Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel where the U.S. men’s national team will stay during the Qatar World Cup in Doha. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

Qatar’s $15 billion Pearl

The Kempinski sits on a secluded extension of roughly 1,000 acres of land that, two decades ago, did not exist. The area was, back then, “a sub-littoral mud flat inhabited by sea grasses, seaweeds, sponges, shrimps, worms, shellfish and snails.” In 2004, Qatar built a “cofferdam” and constructed “reclaimed land” both below and above sea level.

Eighteen years and roughly $15 billion later, The Pearl is Qatar’s top destination for wealthy Westerners — tourists and expat residents. Its central thoroughfare, Pearl Boulevard, winds past man-made beaches and a boardwalk. There are canals meant to replicate Venice. There are Maserati dealerships and tanning salons — even though the actual sun is almost always blazing. There are yacht clubs and precincts with extravagant European names. There are upscale apartments and precisely manicured greenery.

There are other five-star hotels, not just the Kempinski, but it is the most prestigious of the bunch. From afar, it seems to hover on water, a few hundred feet out in the Gulf, with the flags of all 32 World Cup participating nations planted around it. You can get a glimpse by walking around the Costa Malaz precinct, but only through locked gates to restricted, unused beaches.

The street that circles around the island, separated by a bay, is quaint and peaceful, with a playground and borderline mansions. There’s a hot chocolate truck and sports facilities. There are roundabouts and a three-tier fountain that two workers were tending to on a recent afternoon. And, of course, there is construction.

There have been allegations of forced labor and dreadful working conditions at the Kempinski, like at many locations throughout Qatar. There were, according to The Guardian, excessive hours and salaries below minimum wage — which itself is less than $1.50 per hour. The contrast with the hotel’s luxury was stark. Liverpool reportedly rejected a chance to stay at it during the 2019 Club World Cup, citing ethical concerns.

U.S. Soccer, in part to clear its conscience, hired a “compliance officer,” Lisa Saad, a former executive director at the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, to supervise the hotel, its other vendors here and their labor practices. Saad, U.S. Soccer says, “attends meetings with workers and management, visits workers’ accommodations, and reviews audits produced by the Ministry of Labor.”

As journalist Grant Wahl detailed, auditing the complicated web of contractors and subcontractors that supply Qatari hotels and construction projects with migrant workers can be difficult. Less than a year before the World Cup, a security subcontractor was violating laws and workers’ rights. But U.S. Soccer’s efforts seem to have effected some change, all while paving the way to relatively controversy-free comfort.

This picture taken October 15, 2022 shows a view of the lobby area of The Pearl Doha - Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel, which will serve as a base camp for the USA national football team during the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup in the capital Doha. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

A view of the lobby area of Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel — the USMNT’s base during the Qatar World Cup in Doha. (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

We have everything we need’

When the first of the 26 players arrived in Doha last Thursday, Berhalter advised them: “Unpack your things, put your books on the bookshelf, put your clothes in the drawers, get comfortable here.”

Because this is not a typical World Cup that requires intra-country travel. Whereas in 2014, as defender DeAndre Yedlin said, “in Brazil, you were flying three and four hours, so you didn’t really have a base — we had a base hotel, but it didn’t really feel like a base” — in Qatar, they will spend every night of their World Cup at the Kempinski.

Outside of their bus rides to training and games — all between 15 and 40 minutes — they will spend most of their hours there. Aaronson said he spent one day “playing a ton of pool.” The players’ lounge, constructed by U.S. Soccer staffers before the team arrived, serves as a bonding and relaxation hub. On Monday, Weah said, players curled up in blankets and watched the Netflix documentary “FIFA Uncovered.”

When asked what he thought of it, Weah realized he’d walked himself into an uncomfortable corner, given the documentary’s subject.

“Me personally, I wasn’t watching it. I was preoccupied,” he said. “But, I mean — hey.” He smiled.

But the lounge itself is beyond comfortable. “Big couches, we were all just laying down with blankets,” Weah said. “And it’s cool just to be with everyone.”

“And our rooms are great. Our chefs have done an exceptional job,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta said. “We have everything we need. It’s been great.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Breaking News

Advertisement

Editor Pick’s

Latest Entertainment

Entertainment8 hours ago

Dua Lipa shares recording studio photos with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger

Dua Lipa shares recording studio photos with Mick Jagger. (Photo: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images) Is there a Dua Lipa and Rolling...

Entertainment8 hours ago

Dwayne Johnson Says He’s Grateful for Thanksgiving with Family: ‘We Count Our Blessings’

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 03: (L-R) Ata Johnson and Dwayne Johnson attend the World Premiere of Netflix’s “Red Notice”...

Entertainment8 hours ago

Queen Elizabeth Knew Her Time Was Running Short, ‘Had No Regrets’ Before Her Death, Book Says

FEBRUARY 02: Queen Elizabeth II is photographed at Sandringham House to commemorate Accession Day, marking the start of Her Majesty’s...

Entertainment8 hours ago

Pregnant Chrissy Teigen and John Legend Celebrate Thanksgiving with Luna & Miles Ahead of Next Baby

chrissy teigen, john legend Chrissy Teigen/Instagram Chrissy Teigen and John Legend have lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. The...

Entertainment10 hours ago

Irene Cara, Oscar-winning ‘Flashdance’ singer and Fame star, dies at 63

Irene Cara, the Oscar-winning singer best known for performing the theme songs to the legendary films Flashdance and Fame, has...

Entertainment10 hours ago

Bob Dylan Says He ‘Regrets’ an ‘Error in Judgment’ in Selling Machine-Signed Art and Books: ‘I Want to Rectify It Immediately’

Bob Dylan issued a rare public statement Friday night to admit that he “regrets” having made “an error in judgment”...

Entertainment11 hours ago

Kimberly Stewart Shares Sweet Thanksgiving Photo of Her and Benicio Del Toro’s Daughter: ‘Thankful’

https://www.instagram.com/p/ChQLvZrPVdq/?hl=en. Kimberly Stewart/Instagram Kimberly Stewart/Instagram Kimberly Stewart celebrated Thanksgiving with her mini-me by her side. The actress, 43, spent the...

Entertainment17 hours ago

Madonna Shares Rare Snap With All Six Of Her Children As They Celebrate Thanksgiving Together

Madonna has revealed she had a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving after spending the day with all six...

Latest Sports

Sports1 hour ago

How can USA qualify for the World Cup last 16?

How can the USA qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup and what do they need against Iran...

Sports1 hour ago

College football scores: USC hosts Notre Dame

USC still has College Football Playoff aspirations, but they have to get past No. 15 Notre Dame in order to...

Sports2 hours ago

Nebraska signs Matt Rhule to 8-year deal as football coach

After six straight losing seasons and more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is turning to Matt...

Sports2 hours ago

Jim Harbaugh discusses the origins of the trick play against Ohio State

Neither were the coaching staff, as head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters after the game that the Wolverines had "emptied...

Sports2 hours ago

Ja Morant tweets about quiet Klay Thompson critics with Warriors’ star shining

Ja Morant doesn't usually side with the Warriors, but on Friday night, that changed.

Sports3 hours ago

Syracuse’s Judah Mintz ejected after slapping Bryant guard in the face, sparking wild altercation

Four players and three assistant coaches were ejected after Syracuse's Judah Mintz and Bryant's Doug Edert got into it early...

Sports3 hours ago

‘Ryan Day is playing checkers.’ Ohio State football loses to Michigan | Fan reactions

Here's how fans are responding to the Buckeyes' latest loss on social media.

Sports4 hours ago

Everything Jim Harbaugh said after Michigan’s win over Ohio State

Get an annual subscription to M&BR for only $22! Use code RIVALS22 On how proud he is of the teamSo...

Technology Hot News

Is Elon Musk Really Going to Buy Twitter? Is Elon Musk Really Going to Buy Twitter?
Technology1 month ago

Is Elon Musk Really Going to Buy Twitter?

Elon Musk, the owner of the electric car company Tesla, CEO of SpaceX, and the richest man in the world,...

WhatsApp services were affected across Pakistan, restored after 2 hours WhatsApp services were affected across Pakistan, restored after 2 hours
Technology1 month ago

WhatsApp services were affected across Pakistan, restored after 2 hours

WhatsApp services were affected in various countries of the world, including Pakistan, and India due to this users were facing...

Bitcoin vs Litecoin: A guide to understanding cryptocurrencies Bitcoin vs Litecoin: A guide to understanding cryptocurrencies
Technology1 month ago

Bitcoin vs Litecoin: A guide to understanding cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies currently occupy an odd place in society. They are no longer the super niche bizarre currency beloved by tech...

Personal data of people is selling on Google Play and Google Ads Personal data of people is selling on Google Play and Google Ads
Editor Picks2 months ago

Personal data of people are sold on Google Play and Google Ads

It’s been two to three years since Google has been unknowingly hosting multiple apps from malicious actors who sell personal...

Protonmail is down a second time in the past 24 hours Protonmail is down a second time in the past 24 hours
Technology5 months ago

Protonmail is down a second time in the past 24 hours

An end-to-end encrypted email service Protonmail is down a second time in the past 24 hours, netizens reported on social...

What's better for the student: a tablet or a laptop What's better for the student: a tablet or a laptop
Technology6 months ago

What’s better for the student: a tablet or a laptop

Some analysts argue that computers have outlived their usefulness. There is some truth in this: PC and laptop sales are...

Tesla founder Elon Musk holds the Twitter deal temporary Tesla founder Elon Musk holds the Twitter deal temporary
Technology7 months ago

Tesla founder Elon Musk holds the Twitter deal temporary

USA: Elon Musk, the founder of companies like Tesla and SpaceX, can actually buy anything in the world. Last month,...

How Zafar Supari is utilizing his ability on Snapchat? How Zafar Supari is utilizing his ability on Snapchat?
Technology7 months ago

How Zafar Supari is utilizing his ability on Snapchat?

Pakistan: Zafar Supari a public figure, businessman, and social media sensation has crossed one hundred thirty-three thousand 133k subscribers on...