Updated: Dec 16, 2022
The Most Beautiful Game
Sultan Soccer Visits Qatar!
9 games over 9 days was a fantastic experience! Upon arrival at Hamad International Airport I rushed to the hotel to drop my bags off and proceeded to Education City Stadium to watch a thrilling match between Korea and Ghana! However, the next day was the highlight match of the trip - USA vs Iran at Al Thumama Stadium - with the Americans needing a win to advance to the round of 16, and of course the political undertones added to the thirst for victory. Outside the stadium the fans of both countries were peaceful and friendly, however intrinsically it was quite the opposite! The icons of America’s past were at the game to offer their full support - Elvis was in the building with a couple of astronauts ready for liftoff in full NASA gear. My favorite was the Florida Man with the most beautiful mullet one could ask for. With seats behind Pulisic's goal, surrounded by the American Outlaws, it was an unforgettable moment when the oversized American flag began draping up towards me, with the top border stopping for me to hold while proudly singing the Star Spangled Banner. The whole match was on a knife’s edge and the USA was able to secure the victory thanks to Pulisic sacrificing his body for the game winning goal, leading the country to a round of 16 clash with The Netherlands at Khalifa International Stadium.
The Netherlands match was disappointing, as many questions were to be asked: how did Haji Wright get stoned before each game?! Why is Gio Reyna playing limited minutes, out of position?! Jesus Ferreira as a false 9, come on - get out of the midfield and try to complete a pass. Josh Sargeant was sorely missed, and the impressive performances by Matt Turner, Tim Ream, Tyler Adams and Weston McKinnie were not enough to challenge the Dutch.
The Qatar world cup was very well organized, with state of the art stadiums and infrastructure. Tickets were easily delivered, and accessible through your phone’s Hayya app. Wifi everywhere. The convenience of having stadiums in close proximity was a nice change from previous world cups. Instead of flying from city to city, the clean and efficient metro was the method of transportation each day, free of charge. Due to the influx of foreigners into Doha for the world cup, and also outside of the event, many rules are in place to preserve the traditions of Qatari society - the Germans would be envious. Cameras everywhere. Drones hovering outside the stadium. Police officers and security workers are ubiquitous. The western methods of fun are prohibited - sex, drugs and rock & roll - no way! These rules contributed to the biggest complaint of the experience - in their efforts to maintain security and crowd control, there was always a 30 to 45 minute walk to the stadium. The metro and ubers could only take you so far. This was not a walk from point A to point B. Instead you would walk away from your destination, do 2 circles and then zig zag to the stadium. Stand here, not there. Walk this way, not that way. After the games, the crowds were filtered to a single exit point, regardless of your final destination, causing pedestrian traffic and delays. For the 10pm games, do not expect to get home until 2am, sleep and then repeat!
A Culture of Tradition Steps into the Future!
Fascinating, thought provoking and more than a little bizarre, Doha combines desert landscapes with a futuristic skyline and more money than anywhere else in the world. While much of Doha is brand new, some quarters still reference the Arabia of old, including Souq Waqif, where Qataris come to shop and eat just as they have done for the last 150 years. Qatar which has a population of 2.8 million people became the first Gulf Muslim country to hold the FIFA World Cup. This is the first time that the World Cup is held in the months of November and December instead of May, June, or July. This is due to the extreme weather conditions in Qatar during summer. Though Qatar has relatively cooler weather in November, all eight stadiums in Qatar are fully air-conditioned. Qatar won the World Cup bid back in 2010 against the USA, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Qatar is a small peninsula on the western shore of the Arabian Gulf, the size of Connecticut. The landmass forms a rectangle that local folklore describes as resembling the palm of a right hand extended in prayer. Neighboring countries include Bahrain to the northwest, Iran to the northeast, and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to the south. Qatar has been surrounded by many controversies in regard to the World Cup 2022. Firstly, it has been under public scrutiny after news circulated that around 6500 migrant workers, including those from Pakistan, India, Nepal Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka lost their lives in the process of building the stadiums in Qatar. In addition, Qatar’s stance on the LGBTQ movement has sparked debate.