WC 2022: How have traveling fans found the Qatar tournament?

The fans have made themselves heard on the subway
Host Nation: Qatar Dates: November 20-18. December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and BBC Sport website and app. Day by day TV listingsFull coverage details

At about 4:30 a.m. every day in Doha, the Adhan echoes around the city.

After hearing the Islamic call to prayer, worshipers make their way to their local mosque for Fajr (dawn) prayers.

Meanwhile, World Cup visitors are climbing back into their beds after leaving the Fifa fan festival – where the matches are shown on big screens and then concerts – when it closes at 2am.

Qatar has a population of fewer than three million people and more than 2,000 mosques, and a contrast in culture has been brought to the country for the first major international soccer tournament to be held in a Muslim Middle Eastern state.

“It feels so special to see the excitement and the smiles of the fans,” fan festival manager Mead Al Emadi told BBC Sport. “We have welcomed people from all backgrounds and cultures to celebrate the best of football here.

“Seeing how much people enjoy themselves is the intangible legacy of the World Cup. As a Qatari woman who loves her football, working on this project for the last 10 years, then delivering it, is beyond my wildest dreams .”

Prayer facilities ‘make it easy’

Faizal, his father and brother
Faizal, his father and brother have been to watch a number of England matches

Qatar is a conservative country, but Sharia law is firmly enshrined in the constitution – homosexuality is illegal, and the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in public.

Surrounded by visitors from all over the world, Qataris have held on to their traditions and beliefs – men, women and children are seen at matches in thobes and abayas, but with face paint and wearing scarves and flags.

Each stadium has designated prayer rooms, including the media centres, which are often packed as the time approaches for the next of the five daily prayers, and the Khalifa International Stadium has a purpose-built mosque within its perimeter.

During England’s first training session in Doha, the Maghrib (sunset) Adhan could be heard; at a Brazil match at Stadium 974, the imam was seen wearing a Neymar shirt; and during the final group stage at Al Janoub, a group used a Uruguay flag as a prayer mat.

“If the World Cup hadn’t been held here, we probably wouldn’t have come [to Qatar],” says Faizal, who has traveled from Yorkshire with his father and brother.

“The prayer facilities here make it very easy for us, whether it’s in the fan festival, the souk or the stadium. It’s been great to see tourists from all over the world visit the mosques and have a genuine interest in Islam and Arab culture.

“Halal food is a must for us and will most likely be a struggle in other countries, so having access to halal food wherever we are is a huge advantage for us.”

Three of the stadiums have also been equipped with sensory room,external link giving fans with access requirements the opportunity to experience the game away from large crowds and loud music.

Stadium access has mostly been “even”

Qatar has spent billions on infrastructure for the tournament, including stadiums, multi-lane highways and a brand new metro system.

Organizers have consistently claimed that three migrant workers died on stadium pitches, with 37 additional deaths of stadium workers off-site due to non-occupational causes, and disputed a report alleging that as many as 6,500 migrant workers have died.

Late last month, World Cup boss Hassan Al Thawadi told TalkTV that an estimated 400-500 migrant workers died “as a result of work related to the World Cup”.

However, Qatari officials quickly sought to clarify that figure, saying it was an estimate of fatalities across all industry sectors, not just infrastructure sites linked to the tournament.

With the most remote of the stadiums just 40 miles from the center of Doha, there were questions ahead of the World Cup about how the infrastructure would fare.

After an initial problem with the Fifa ticket app on day two – causing problems for hundreds of fans who go to England and Wales matches – Stadium access has largely gone well.

With some of the stadiums a 20-minute walk or so from a tube station, hundreds of staff have been on hand to point people towards the arenas, then shout “subway, this way” while pointing giant foam fingers after games.

England fan Ben lives in Doha, and attended the first match at Al Bayt – the stadium furthest outside the city.

“The logistics around the stadium were very smooth,” he said. “There were loads of buses to take us down from the tube and loads of buses to get us back.

“Getting on the ground was smooth too. The line was long but it moved steadily and we were in in about 20 minutes.

“But no food or water was available in the hall near us, which was a bit of a farce.”

Holly, an England fan who traveled for the group stage, said: “What has really surprised me is how easy it is to get to the stadiums and around the city. The Metro has been brilliant and you hardly have to wait.”

Another England supporter said fans could get to most stadiums quite easily, but those further afield were “quite difficult to navigate”.

However, the long-term legacy of the tournament will be felt once foreign fans have returned home, and a Brazilian man who has lived in Qatar for eight years told us that the construction of the metro system will have a particular impact.

“We feel much safer here”

Japan fan Take, his friend and BBC Sport reporters Emma and Shamoon
Take (second right) traveled over to Qatar from Japan with his friend and is pictured here with BBC Sport reporters Emma and Shamoon

Qatar has a low crime rate, so you are unlikely to be pickpocketed or mugged on the street. But security has been beefed up for the tournament, with many police officers patrolling the metro and stadiums.

Japan supporter Take said he felt “much safer here” than in Brazil eight years ago.

“You had to check your bags everywhere you went,” he said, reflecting on the experience in 2014. “Here, nothing.”

England fan Mike said: “This is a World Cup like no other – it’s so different but it’s been brilliant. I went to the fan festival and there were so many fans around enjoying the occasion.

“Obviously you don’t drink and there haven’t been any problems. It all feels so safe.”

Another England fan, Holly, added: “There were worries about coming but I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a completely different atmosphere to what we’re used to in England football.

“There’s no drink and no large groups of fans has made it a bit of a carnival atmosphere. I haven’t seen many European fans though, but the South Americans have more than made up for it.”

Atmosphere “as good as ever” or “disappointing”?

In the build-up to the tournament, it was unclear how many supporters would travel to Qatar and what the atmosphere would be like at the matches.

More than one million fans are estimated to have made the trip, and very few games have looked significantly undersigned. In fact, Fifa said the attendance for the group stage had been an average of 96% of stadium capacity.external link

Most of the games have been full of the colour, passion and noise you’d expect at any major tournament, although there have been others that have left people posting on social media that they felt “flat” or “artificial”.

The most obvious difference compared to previous tournaments has been a reduction in the number of European fans. While such as Brazil and Argentina seem to be represented everywhere you go, it is unusual to see a supporter wearing a European football kit away from the stadiums.

One Germany fan we met before their draw with South Korea said the atmosphere at European matches had been “disappointing” and that it was a huge contrast to the 2006 tournament in his home country, where fan parks had “100,000 in every day.. . here it is only 30,000 on the Corniche”.

However, many supporters have been impressed by the atmosphere in the stadiums, with Brazil fan Dulce – who has lived in Doha for five years – saying it was “as good as ever”.

“We’ve really loved it,” she said. “I’m told there are around 30,000 Brazil fans who have come from South America, and 38,000 from Argentina. This is normal.

“Just listen to the noise. You can be anywhere in the world and this noise is just as loud and just as good. I’m excited to see what will happen later in the World Cup.”

“Leaving LGBTQ+ Supporters Behind”

While we have spoken to supporters who have chosen to travel to Qatar, there are of course many fans who have stayed away, with the decision to host the World Cup in a country where homosexuality is illegal being heavily criticized.

Organizers have always maintained that all visitors would be welcome regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality, but they also said they expected their laws and culture to be respected, and many LGBTQ+ fans said they had not received the assurances of safety they needed.

Days before the World Cup started in Qatar, a fan group said football is “leaving” its LGBT supporters behind.

A gay fan wrote in one diary for BBC News that while he has never felt worried about his safety in Qatar, “locals don’t consider gay fans part of the equation”.

ONE transgender Qatari woman also told BBC News: “I’m very scared, but I just want people to know that we exist.”

BBC News journalist Shaimaa Khalil wrote from Doha: “It feels like there are two parallel universes when it comes to the controversies surrounding this World Cup.

“For the advocates, the activists, the European teams and especially the seven captains who intended to wear the One Love armband, this is an LGBT and human rights issue they want to be vocal about.

“For the hosts Qatar, and the spectators who have come here or who follow around the Arab world – which has a large Muslim majority – this is about religion, culture, the norms of the region and mostly about respect that they do not feel. get.”

“Coffee is our beer”

Alcohol cannot be consumed in public in Qatar, while it is usually only available to buy in certain hotels or if you have a licence.

Just two days before the start of the tournament, Fifa changed its policy and decided that alcohol should not be sold in the eight stadiums.

The tournament has been mostly uneventful, apart from one incident that appeared to show a fight between Argentina and Mexico supporters.

In Msheireb – the downtown area of ​​Doha where there are a number of restaurants with outdoor seating – we spoke to a fan wearing a Scottish shirt and his two friends enjoying a soft drink.

When asked how he has fared without alcohol readily available, he said: “It hasn’t been a problem at all. In fact, it’s made us feel a little bit better.”

An Ecuador fan, who now lives in Saudi Arabia, said they drink alcohol in his home country and it’s a “big lifestyle”. He admitted it had been “very difficult for a few weeks” after he moved to adjust to not drinking alcohol and having parties, but he is used to what it is like in Qatar and now has an alternative.

“Here, coffee is like our beer,” he said. “People line up forever for coffee.”

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