21 Nov, 2022 @ 13:15
2 mins read

OUR MAN IN QATAR: First impressions of the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East

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THE WORLD Cup in Qatar 2022 has well and truly landed, and the Olive Press’ man in Qatar has been there soaking in the mood and the atmosphere as the fans flood in – belying media coverage of empty stadiums and a ghost city.

The only shame, he says, is the lack of England supporters, thought to number in just the low thousands, and likely to be dwarfed by neutrals and Iranians in the stadium for their match with Iran this evening.

Doha was packed out for the Opening Ceremony last night, hosted by Hollywood legend Morgan Freeman, and featuring a coordinated drone display that produced the moving image of a player kicking a ball high in the sky against the backdrop of the Qatari skyscrapers.

The fan zone in the city centre, designed for 30,000 spectators, was packed out with perhaps double that, our man estimated, so much so that he could not get in.

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One of Qatar’s many skyscrapers emblazoned with World Cup imagery – this time a pair of goalkeeper’s gloves catching a ball

That too goes for the souk in the Old Town – the traditional Arab marketplace that used to be the centre of the community, where everyone would gather to trade and barter, or just drink a green tea and smoke some shisha.

But the atmosphere has been bouncing and friendly, with fans from Tunisia, Algeria, Iran, Argentina, Mexico and other non-western countries bringing a good-natured pleasantness that isn’t always found with their European counterparts.

And it isn’t just men aggressively dominating the public space – “there are more girls here than in Marbella,” our man says, all free to dress how they like in the Gulf without being bothered by anybody.

The temperatures quickly drop once the sun goes down, around 5pm, meaning that the matches – all played after 4pm local time – should not suffer too much from the oppressive climate.

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The city of Doha has had 12 years to prepare for this World Cup, and some of the most famous players at the tournament can be seen gracing the sides of skyscrapers

Our man recommends wearing trousers in the evening and he has even been on the lookout for a shop where he can buy a jacket.

Back at his accommodation, our man was impressed with the sheer volume that had been constructed over 750,000 square metres.

He reports that all 20,000 units, costing around €100 a night for two people, are fully booked out.

Despite having a slightly prisony vibe, they feature en suite bathrooms, two single beds (bad news for the lovers), air-conditioning, hot water, towels, wifi, the lot.

Nearby supermarkets are fully-stocked with traditional western products – with even a box of Quality Street available.

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The accommodation built for the tournament has seen 12,000 units spread out across 750,000 square metres

Getting to and from the city has been a dream, with Ubers just €8 for a 30 minute journey, or constant shuttle buses ferrying people to the nearest metro station.

And then there’s the metro system in Doha – “like something you’ve never seen before,” a queueless paradise where the trains come as fast as they go so you are never waiting more than a few seconds.

A lot of hotels and bars are offering a happy hour deal to take the edge of the €13 pints – four cans of lager and a burger for roughly €50.

With England’s first match of the tournament coming up this afternoon, our man in Qatar is in buoyant mood.

One word to sum it all up? “Fantastic.”

Walter Finch

Walter - or Walt to most people - is a former and sometimes still photographer and filmmaker who likes to dig under the surface.
A NCTJ-trained journalist, he came to the Costa del Sol - Gibraltar hotspot from the Daily Mail in 2022 to report on organised crime, corruption, financial fraud and a little bit of whatever is going on.
Got a story? [email protected]

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