My Experience in Qatar Watching the Football World Cup!
Way back in 2016, two of my closest friends Richy and Paul Sam had invited me to stay with them to watch the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar. (Both of them are NRI’s settled in Qatar)
At the time, I did not give it too much thought because I didn’t know where I’d be in six years.
But this July, when the World Cup ticket sales opened online, I decided to take them up on their offer and was desperately hoping and praying to get tickets. After waiting for Only 12 hours to get into the virtual ticketing cue, my friends and I successfully booked tickets.
So, on the 26th of November I left for Qatar, which also happened to be my first trip to the Middle–East. I had no idea what to expect.
Qatar had received lot of negative coverage for its treatment of migrant workers and its stance towards the LGBTQ community.
Just a week before the start of the world cup, Sepp Blatter (who was the FIFA President when Qatar was handed the hosting rights), emphatically stated that it was a mistake to give Qatar the world cup. He said “Qatar is too small of a country,……. Football and the World Cup are too big for it.”
Many like Blatter couldn’t fathom how a small country like Qatar could do a good job of hosting the event. The overwhelmingly negative international coverage continued even once the world cup commenced.
This was a pity because Qatar, for the most part, did an exceptional job of providing its visitors with a smooth and hassle-free experience during the tournament as far as overall organisation and commuting were concerned.
They made public transport (both bus and the metro) completely free to World Cup match ticket holders. This was a brilliant move and doing this reduced traffic on the roads considerably.
My match ticket was for Switzerland vs Serbia, the final group game. Switzerland ended up edging out Serbia 3-2 in a highly entertaining game.
However, to be frank, in terms of ambience, it was no match to watching Kerala Blasters’ (my local football team) game in Kochi, where people play Chenda (the local drums) and dance in the stands.
The match probably lacked a festive atmosphere because there were a lot of neutral supporters, and there wasn’t a big turnout of fans from either Switzerland or Serbia.
However, there was a large turnout in Qatar of fans from South America, Africa, & Arab countries, and it was a pleasure to watch them sing, dance and play music on the streets and in the metro.
The highlight of my two weeks in Qatar had nothing to do with football, but rather to my surprise, it was the time I spent in the desert.
I had always imagined the desert to be this dry place devoid of any fun and excitement, but boy was I wrong.
My friends and I rode dune buggies through the desert, and I can’t recall the last time I had so much fun. It was a thrilling experience going up and down the dunes on the buggy with my friends.
A short Video clip of the Dune Buggy Experience
I enjoyed the desert so much that we took another trip to the desert. This time late at night for stargazing.
It was cool and windy in the desert. We found ourselves a little spot away from everyone else, where it was incredibly tranquil.
We laid down in the desert sand, listened to some music and gazed upwards at the sky and reminisced about old times. It was a wonderful experience!
We considered spending the night in the desert. But there are a lot of Arabs who go to the desert for dune bashing in their Toyota Land Cruisers, and I was honestly a little scared whether we would be run over during the night if we ended up sleeping there. I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t want to die either, so we headed back that night.
When my friends initially came to know that I planned to spend two weeks in Qatar they were concerned as to whether I would get bored easily.
But there were indeed things to do out there such as visiting the Qatar National Museum, the Sealine beach, the Islamic Art Museum, Katara Village – Qatar’s Cultural Center which had a great vibe, the Qatar National Library, which was a huge and a fantastic place, the FIFA Fan Festival and posh areas like Lusail and Pearl Qatar.
Because of the World Cup, there were also plenty of great music and cultural dance performances in various parts of the city.
What was also very satisfying for me personally was that being in Qatar gave me a chance to catch up with some old friends, relatives and acquaintances who had come to watch the World Cup.
I’d like to leave you with a few pictures from my time in Qatar.
Another Dune Buggy riding clip
*I wish you a wonderful New Year filled with Love, Joy & Thrilling New Adventures!*
Special thanks to my buddies Richy & Paul Sam for being such great hosts. My trip to Qatar would have never happened if it wasn't for you guys!
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