Monday, October 19, 2015

Al Sadd and Xavi

So I went to my first Al Sadd football match the other day. I was a bit to finally get a chance to see Al Sadd's latest star player, Spanish-legend Xavi, play a match. He's the man in white in the center of the photo, about to shake hands with the other team.

Al Sadd were playing against Qatar Sports Club. Al Sadd is one of the more popular teams in Qatar so had around 2000 fans show up for the match. There were also a number of school kids in attendance, apparently there was a youth tournament going on at Aspire so hundreds were there to watch the game. Most were cheering for Al Sadd / Xavi as well.

I guess a player named Raul from Al Sadd was retiring because a huge banner was unfurled by the fans to thank him.

I won't go into all of the details of the match but I thought it would be a blow-out when Al-Sadd scored in the first three minutes! Qatar Sports Club settled down though and played better after that. They weren't able to stop a second goal but kept things lively with a late goal. It wasn't enough though and it ended 2-1 for Al Sadd.

Al Sadd Stadium is really great. The air conditioning keeps things comfortable and if you pay for QAR 20 seats they are really nice and padded - quite comfortable. My friend fell asleep a couple of times.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Boxing World Championships

So some friends and I went to the AIBA Boxing Championships, held at the new arena near Al-Sadd Sports Club.

Nicely set up, plenty of room and lots of people watching.

They had two rings so there were always two matches simultaneously. AIBA Boxing requires three rounds of (I think) three minutes a round. Unlike Olympic boxing there’s no padded helmets so things are a bit rougher, but with only three rounds there was little chance of a KO and sure enough we didn’t see one. We saw about three hours of boxing so that was around 10-11 fights.

There were some good fights, and one got pretty bloody as a Puerto Rican took a nasty cut above the eye which kept bleeding down his face. He still won though.

There was also a big crowd of Irish supporters wearing emerald green clothing cheering on their countrymen. Boxing is a big deal in Ireland. There were also a handful of vocal Cuban fans, who had a lot to cheer about as many of the boxers were Cuban (another country where boxing is a major sport).

Watching it there seemed to be two types of boxers: aggressive boxers who attack a lot risking leaving themselves open for a counter-punch, and defensive boxers who block more and wait for a mistake or opportunity. Needless to say I found aggressive boxing more exciting to watch, even though it is not necessarily more successful than defensive boxing (sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t). The best fights were with two aggressive boxers.

The finals are Wednesday and Thursday. You can buy tickets online or through Virgin.

Friday, October 09, 2015

World Cup 2018 Qualifying – Qatar vs China

Last night was a World Cup qualifying match between Qatar and China, held at the (thankfully air-conditioned) Al Sadd Stadium. While the stadium wasn’t full was a decent crowd, maybe 6000+ supporting Qatar and around 600-700 Chinese supporters. Traffic was still an issue though, especially since the Boxing Championships are being held at the other stadium nearby (I’m going to that on Saturday). The Chinese supporters were all wearing identical T-shirts so I assume the Chinese Football Federation handed them out to fans.

In the first half Qatar played better than the Chinese, getting most of the possession and chances. Qatar managed to score one goal and it was only through sheer luck that they didn't manage to score a second one. 1-0 after halftime.

The halftime show was a troupe from China, representing a Dragon and Lions. They were pretty good. I liked how the Lions would suddenly stand on two legs.

In the second half the teams were more evenly matched, China upped its game so there was a lot of back-and-forth and chances on both sides. Things were getting tense, it got a little rougher and there was the odd questionable tackle on both sides.

In the end since they were evenly matched no one could score, Qatar’s goal held and Qatar won 1-0. An impressive effort against the higher-ranked Chinese team (China is ranked 81, Qatar 92) and a deserved win for Qatar.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

IHOP Update

[October 13th Update: IHOP opened a few days ago, around October 9th. Enjoy!]

If you hear rumours that IHOP opened, or that someone saw that IHOP was open, it’s not quite true. The restaurant was doing a “test run” today and I was fortunate enough to be allowed to attend with some friends.

Everything worked well and we could order from anywhere on the menu. Qatar will soon finally have a decent all-day breakfast place! Prices for breakfast items were in the 40s range.

As for when it officially opens the staff and managers I spoke with said, fingers crossed, it’ll open next week.

Watching Another Qatar Stars League Match

Last night I went out to Gharafa Stadium to watch Al-Rayyan take on Mesaimeer.

When I got to the stadium there was a huge crowd outside. Apparently there was some Egyptian event going on in the parking lot. There was a stage with a singer and a lot of people carrying Egyptian flags. I have no idea what it was or why it was held in a parking lot but it looked like everyone was having a good time.

As for the game, it was reasonably well attended (around 3-4 thousand). Al-Rayyan is one of the more popular clubs in Qatar so have a lot of fans. I think Mesaimeer had maybe 100 fans (many of whom were on the far right of this picture, evenly spaced out in the seats for some reason).

No half-time show but the Al Kass network did have two field reporters doing half-time commentary for their broadcast.

The first half wasn’t very exciting but then things picked up in the second half with Al-Rayyan scoring two decent goals. Final score 2-0.

There was another match after that (Qatar Club vs Umm Slal) but I had to meet friends at a café so I left. I saw the game on TV at the café and it was a much more exciting game (Umm Slal was 2-0 down but managed to score two, with the equalizer happening in the final 30 seconds in injury time).

I’m thinking next week to go to Al Khor if there’s a match there.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Scorpions and Spiders

The other day I learned that the most dangerous scorpion to humans is not from America. It is the Arabian Fat-Tailed Scorpion, which is found throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including Qatar. Click the link below to see some pictures -- scary little buggers

I knew there were scorpions out in the desert -- scorpions live in pretty much any desert – but I didn't realize such a dangerous one was in Qatar. I'm going to guess they're quite rare as I'd never heard of anyone here getting stung by a scorpion and having to go to the hospital. That said, it is something to bear in mind so from now on whenever I’m out in the desert I’ll double-check under blankets and in hiding places like shoes.

How did I find this information out? From wiki-surfing after looking up brown recluse spiders, after reading news articles of a man that was bitten by a spider on a Qatar Airways flight. I wish the news articles would have more information, like how they determined that the spider was a brown recluse. The background to the bite (the spider was hiding in his clothes and bit him when he shifted his leg, the bite caused necrosis) is definitely in character with a recluse spider, but Brown Recluse spiders are native to America, and the man had been flying from Borneo to South Africa via Doha. The spider got away after it bit the guy and was not found, so how did doctors determine it was a brown recluse? I would have guessed that it was a different recluse spider, there are about 100 different Loxosceles (recluse) spiders so it might have been one from Borneo, possibly even an unknown species. Without more information who knows.