To many in the Gulf, motivational speaker Ghanim Al Muftah is a familiar face.
But the young disability activist, who has a huge following on social media, was one of the breakout stars on Sunday night at the opening ceremony of the Fifa World Cup 2022 in Doha, which was watched by thousands around the world.
Al Muftah, 22, stole the show at the ceremony at the tent-shaped Al Bayt Stadium, sharing the stage with Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman.
The young Qatari recited a verse from the Quran and helped the actor welcome the world in a show themed around unity and tolerance.
“We sent out the call, because everyone is welcome. This is an invitation to the whole world,” said Al Muftah, dressed in a thobe and walking to the stage with the use of his hands.
Then, reciting a verse from the Quran, he added: “We were raised to believe that we were scattered on this earth as nations and tribes, so we could learn from each other and find beauty in our differences.”
“I can see it,” Freeman replied. “What unites us here, in this moment, is so much greater than what divides us. How can we make it last longer than just today?”
“With tolerance and respect, we can live together under one big home,” Al Muftah replied.
Al Muftah was born in Qatar with a rare condition known as caudal regression syndrome, a congenital disorder in which the foetal development of the lower body is abnormal.
Mostly using his hands to move around, he has documented his continuing medical challenges, turning them into an inspirational journey and eventually becoming a motivational speaker.
Currently, in university studying political science, Al Muftah hopes to become a diplomat one day. He is also a major social media star, with more than seven million followers on TikTok, more than 3.3 million on Instagram and close to a million subscribers on YouTube.
He also enjoys participating in extreme sports such as scuba diving, skateboarding and rock climbing, and hopes to be a Paralympian one day.
In April, Al Muftah was named a Fifa World Cup 2022 ambassador.
Sunday’s 30-minute ceremony was meant to introduce Qatar to the world through its culture and with a theme of “bridging distances”.
Creative director Ahmad Al Baker told the Associated Press he wanted the ceremony to signify “a gathering for all mankind, an invitation to come together as one, bridging all differences with humanity, respect and inclusion”.
The show also featured a performance by BTS member Jung Kook and Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi, who sang the single Dreamers, produced specifically for the World Cup.
“We have worked hard, along with many people, to make it one of the most successful tournaments,” said Sheikh Tamim, Emir of Qatar, in his opening ceremony speech.
“We have exerted all efforts and invested for the good of all humanity. How beautiful it is for people to put aside what divides them in order to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together at the same time.”
Scroll through the gallery below for more pictures from the World Cup 2022 opening ceremony
Source: The National News