Football in Qatar

Driving around the city of Doha, it’s hard not to notice that Qatar have a bid for the 2022 World Cup.  The last few months, almost all Qatari associations have demonstrated their support for the bid and the biggest event by far, to illustrate Qatar’s dedication to the game, was the friendly match between South American teams Brazil and Argentina.  While football friendlies are not uncommon in Qatar (last year Brazil played against England), there was a lot of anticipation and excitement around town regarding this particular match, especially since the well-loved Messi and infamous Ronaldino were featuring in each of the teams.   Also, the game marks the last two weeks before FIFA announce the 2022 World Cup locations.

Anyway, given we were not sure of our plans during Eid Al Adha, we purchased tickets online two days before the game in a frantic rush.  Neither of us had been to a football game before and funnily enough a few weeks earlier we’d only just attended our first tennis matches – Sam Stosur vs Caroline Wozniacki and also Kim Clisters vs Jelena Jankovic.

On Wednesday night we headed to Khalifa Stadium. Traffic was a bit of a nightmare, as it is in Doha, but we eventually decided to take a back route and arrived with 45 minutes before kickoff.  Khalifa Stadium has a capacity of about fifty-thousand, and this game was a sell-out, so and upon entering it felt huge and excitement was in the air! It was a colourful scene with gold and green shirts littering the stadium and Argentinean blues also featuring (somewhat to a lesser extent).. and of course the Qataris in their handsome white Thawbs were there to watch  as well.

The game was a good one to watch, however by half time neither had scored (despite some close shots) and the crowd was getting frustrated. A bit of entertainment came in the form of a spectator who ran loose on the grounds during the match followed closely by a group of about six policeman.  This caused the crowds to grow wild, cheering, clapping and laughing.  The guy looked quite pleased with himself whilst being handcuffed and escorted away by said policeman.   Being neither a Brazil or Argentina supporter I didn’t barrack for either team but Messi was a bit of a highlight and favourite for me and when he scored a goal at the first last minute (in injury time), with four Brazilian defenders against him I was impressed.. so was the rest of the stadium which roared in appreciation for his skills.  So, Argentina won 1-0 and the players swapped shirts as they left the field… and all the fans left giddy with excitement over Messi’s first goal in a match against Brazil. Overall, a fun night of football!

Brazil warming up
First half under way
Near Argentina goals
Brazil subs stretching
Closeup action
Spectator running on the field
After the game Ronaldinho and Messi
Part of Khalifa International Stadium