Waka Waka by retired Sec
Wales first World Cup since 1958 was not to be missed, well not for 4 of us intrepid travellers. Sods law that the competition we did qualify for was probably the most controversial World Cup ever. The Human rights situation in Qatar is well documented, and the hosts mount an immediate defence of their country and culture whenever it is raised.
In my own mind I did think about it, but I took the easy way out. My attitude was it was not my fault that corrupt FIFA officials chose Qatar. And that’s not me being slanderous or provocative. A number of FIFA officials who voted at the time have since been suspended, and 2 officials on the morning of the vote had to pull out due to concerns around their integrity.
So off we went with Wonky Dai. 4 of us had an apartment with a shared pool, which worked out a treat for us. We were warned beforehand that Qatarians have a very laid-back attitude and are never rushed, and we saw that immediately on arrival when we were bussed from the airport to our apartment block. There was no rush of panic, apart from Wonky Dai that is. I don’t know how much he aged over the course of the trip, but he looked stressed at the airport on the way out and back (more about that later).
It is often said that the game is the worse part of the trip, and it was certainly true in Qatar. Wales were pretty disappointing and seemed rather shambolic at time. Players not fit, players that couldn’t run and players who seemed to be there for the experience. Not really what we need. We did have a decent 45 mins v USA but apart from that there was nothing to write home about.
The country itself was interesting. I was there for 10 days and I’m not sure if I experienced anything that was authentic Qatar. 99.9% of the people I saw were not local indigenous people, it was as if they had all moved out while the footy was on. All the food was overseas food, and you could have been walking down the street of any European City and seen exactly the same, apart from the lack of alcohol which you could only get in hotels. Although the lack of freely available alcohol was probably a good thing when you think there were fans from 32 countries within such as small space. There could have been carnage. There were not as many European fans there as you may have imagined, they largely stayed home. The South American, Mexican and African teams were the best supported, with Argentina the standout from the South, and Tunisia & Morocco from Africa. The Tunisian’s certainly had an interesting song!
The fans park was huge and had everything I could ask for, especially merch. Alcohol was available after 7pm, but was rather amusingly signposted and referred to as “International Beverages”. Fans tended to spend the day at Souq Waqif which was a transport hub with the bus services and metro system close by. Writing about transport, you would never believe how many buses there were in Qatar. They were there to take you to all the stadiums, between stadiums if you had tickets for more than one game a day. The true legends of the World Cup though were the metro announcers. “Metro this way” was the sound of the tournament, even more than the Dreamers tournament song. The metro system coped with the capacity no problem and had air conditioning. I do wonder though on the usage post tournament, because everyone seems to drive erratically out there.
Outside of the Wales games we saw 6 others, and got to experience games in 5 of the 8 stadiums. Rather disappointingly Wales games were all in the same Stadium. The desert Al Khor Tented Stadium was remarkable and the best thing about the England 0 USA 0 game (apart from the free tickets I suppose), but sadly we did not see a game at the Lussail Stadium, where Argentina deservedly won the final. I say deservedly because I am an unapologetic Messi fan, and I was glad for his legacy he won. I also chuckled at Ronaldo being benched as well. A great player, but lots to dislike about him unlike Leo. The game of the tournament for us was Serbia 3 Cameroon 3. An unlikely contender for our best game but it was about as exciting as it got for us, and certainly more exciting than Spain 7 Costa Rica 0.
The tournament ended in a fitting way for us on the field, getting outclassed by England, it summed the tournament up, a step too far for an aging squad. One final bit of drama for me, when I got to the airport I was not on the flight list. Wonky Dai sorted it out for me pretty quickly but it was a bit of last minute drama I could have one without. And the change in temperature when we landed in Cardiff was a shock to the system.