Saturday, December 11, 2021

2021 FIFA Arab Cup

This is one of my few posts not focused on COVID since the pandemic started. Qatar is hosting the Arab Cup (basically teams from the Middle East and North Africa) and a friend of mine managed to get a bunch of us tickets to the hottest match in town -- Qatar vs the UAE. 

I took a rapid test that morning as a precaution since I'll be sitting in close quarters with friends for a few hours, thankfully it was negative, so I was on my way to the city of Al Khor where the match would be that evening. A friend has a house there and hosted a BBQ for us before the game.

The game was at 10:00pm so we watched the 6pm game (Tunisia vs Oman) at the house then went to the stadium. The traffic was crazy, I mean you would expect that but I mean it was crazier than that. Leaving at 8pm to get to a stadium a few kilometers away there were times I wasn't sure we would make it in time for the kickoff. In the end we had to take a backroad to find a roundabout route to the large swath of desert serving as the parking lots. From there it was still a long walk, the parking lots were on the other side of the highway from the stadium. There is a huge pedestrian walkway over the highway for that purpose but it meant thousands of people walking to the walkway and then walking to the stadium from there.

We eventually got to the stadium, called Al Bayt (the house), one of the largest stadiums in Qatar. Built for the upcoming World Cup, it's a really cool design meant to look like an Arabic tent.

In terms of organization once we actually got to the parking lot things went pretty smoothly, there were plenty of staff and signs to direct you to where you needed to go. The biggest issue was getting to the parking lots, there were simply not enough roads/entrances to handle all of the traffic. When I was crossing the pedestrian bridge (at around 9:30) I could still see hundreds and hundreds of cars backed up into the highway trying to get into the parking lots. There was no way those people were going to make it in time for the kickoff. It'll be the main thing that Qatar will need to work on for next year's tournament, reconfiguring things so that more cars can enter the parking area in a short span of time. Getting through security, getting tickets checked, etc., that went fine.

Inside there were tens of thousands of people. It wasn't full when we arrived but that's because there were thousands more trying to find parking and getting in. It was eventually full. We had great seats on the 16th row near one of the goals.

Unluckily for us the UAE goal was on the other side of the field because the first half was a total rout.

Yep, 5-0 for Qatar after the half. UAE were making tons of mistakes, giveaways, and penalties, I think that alone counted for four of the goals. It was crazy -- and all happening at the other side of the field. Not that any of the Qatari fans cared. They were so happy.

And that's how the score ended, when the UAE goal moved to our side there were no goals. A couple of good chances, and I would say Qatar was the stronger side in that half as well, but no goals from either team. The fans were thrilled.

Getting home took a while as almost everyone was funneled to the pedestrian bridge in order to get back to the parking lots. It got crowded but there was some level of crowd control to try to keep it spaced out and not have everyone crushing each other. In the end it took about 45 minutes to reach the car and I was home close to 2:00am. 

All in all a great night, Qatar just needs to work on the parking access. The Arab Cup is a practice run for the World Cup next year (and there'll be 10x as many people showing up) so the Government is using the Arab Cup to figure out what is working and what isn't.


No comments: