My Fairytale journey of FIFA World cup Qatar 2022

FIFA world cup Qatar-2022 ended like a sweet dream last week. The journey was about one-third of my lifetime which I would like to sum up here in this article today…

A glimpse of Qatar World Cup Development

I was in Al-Ain (UAE) when Qatar was awarded hosting rights of the FIFA world cup, it came as a refreshing surprise to us; the unthinkable had happened. Soon after, Qatar became an attractive market for professionals especially Civil Engineers around the world. I came to Qatar in June 2011 after switching job. In all these years, we were involved in numerous assignments which were somehow related to the world cup plan. We saw Qatar’s fantastic transformation during these 12 years. Major roads have been built & beautified and many new landmarks have been created. Qatar completed the most important and challenging Metro rail project by 2019 which is an important landmark in the context of the FIFA world cup; residents enjoy high-class efficient metro services at extremely low cost.

Some Parallel Battles towards World Cup

We saw the feud with Qatar by some Arab countries in 2017 as well during which Qatar stood tall by extremely efficient and bold diplomacy; I can still recall that time when foodstuff especially milk, yoghurt, and eggs were supplied by Turkey, Iran, and others friendly countries over the night. All our concerns regarding our life, assets, and food security turned out to be false due to the amazing position taken by Qatar’s wise leadership. While the supplies were cut off during that time; Qatar adopted urgent alternative measures to keep the development work on track. As a blessing in disguise, Qatar developed its’s dairy sector big time and achieved breakthroughs in various other sectors as well. As illustrated in Al-Wahda Arches, the journey continued despite all challenges.

COVID-19 pandemic is the latest and one of most lethal blows which Qatar survived during its journey to the FIFA world evenQatar’star government again came off in shining colors with its strategic and systematic approach to dealing with this crisis. Being involved in a public sector entity, I witnessed this period of extreme workload and willingness to honor Qatar’s bid for world cup football. No compromise was made on the development work.

Some Doubts!

Even very near to the world cup, we saw some ongoing construction works which created some doubts about whether this would be finished by the world cup or not. We even witnessed FIFA ex-president’s statement that giving Qatar world cup hosting rights was a mistake.

On the verge, still, life was even more difficult for the administrators!

And the Event starts

I can surely recall my conversation in my workplace lift with one of the employees; regarding the temperature, he said “It’s about a week into the world cup and it’s still very hot & humid outside; some of the matches would be starting at 1:00 pm. It would be challenging; Let’s see!”. And I agreed with him about the same concern.

And then we saw, hardly 2-3 days before the opening ceremony, the weather suddenly became pleasant! I am pretty sure this was something special from Allah (S.W.T) as a blessing to all the hard work put in by the people of Qatar. I have seen this phenomenon in life and now saw this in a nation’s life as well.

All concerns were swept away as the event started on 20th November 2022.

My experience of Attending FIFA World Cup matches in the Stadiums

Initially, my target was to attend at least one match with my family just to get FIFA experience but luckily, I got several tickets during the first lucky draw; so, I had a chance to attend many matches. Each match was unique and somehow different from the others, I had different and mixed feelings about each match which I would like to go through briefly in upcoming lines.

All the stadiums that I went to were well-equipped with all the facilities which one could think of. If you think about a ramp for baby strollers, you will find it nearby. If you think about parking the stroller, you will find a special booth near the gates. Sufficient facilities were provided for food, toilets, and prayer areas. This world cup also had a focus on people with special needs and we could see special accessibility and spectator areas for the same. For instant, if you think you were lost; you would soon find a helpful volunteer to guide you in the right direction. Let me say the FIFA Qatar-2022 world cup was like a lavish grand party for everyone as if someone brought you to a rich buffet and you can eat whatever you can!

M15 Portugal vs Ghana: I used stadium 974 parking facility to park my car and witnessed sheer grit and passion among the Spectators as I moved through the overhead bridge across Ras bu aboud Road. I was particularly attracted by the numerous activities going on outside the stadium. The antique and street art sort of facade of temporary 974 was a unique experience. Cutting a long story short, it was a pleasure to see one of my favorite teams Portugal playing and winning. Christiano Ronaldo was obviously the main attraction for us; he was different from others, walking like a peacock. Seemed to be flying rather than walking, he created some important moves and scored a goal on penalty as well. I felt, Portugal became complacent after getting the lead and became spiritless as Ronaldo left the field. They somehow managed to win this match.

M18 Qatar vs Senegal: I specially watched this match particularly due to host country, my second home country playing. I dressed in Qatari/Arabic style and warm-heartedly joined my close friend Mr. Babar & his kids who were also well-prepared and passionate about this game. I found accessibility and the stadium to be much better with the comfortable seating arrangement. Senegal was dominant throughout the match, and we felt Qatar’s team lacked self believe and could not find the goalpost despite making some good moves. Qatar’s football team needs to find out the finishing touch and fire in the belly which they showed in the last Asia Cup football.

M34 Iran vs USA, a war?? Not really… This match has been my childhood fantasy, I recall one of previous matches that Iran won against USA (in 1998) during my childhood while I was in Pakistan; this match was portrayed as war in the media, and we were really excited about it. I had similar feelings this time also and wanted to see the atmosphere, I wanted to feel it myself. But to my surprise players of both countries were playing it like a routine match somewhat like Pakistan-India cricket players on the cricket field; the match was fast but there was no war on the pitch. Iran played well throughout the match, but USA was lucky enough to reach the net. Even when we came outside, fans of both Iran and USA were having some warm photo sessions; again, there was no war outside the stadium as well.

M48 Brazil vs Cameron: This was the most boring & bizarre of matches which I watched during FIFA 2022. Although Brazil dominated the whole match but could not reach the nets. Cameron stunned everyone with their singular goal in additional time. This was my first experience in the iconic Lusail stadium. I reached the stadium by car and had to catch the shuttle bus to reach the stadium, I think, the accessibility for private car parking should be improved for future events.

M52 France vs Poland, round of 16 match: It was an interesting match I was really impressed by the quick reflexes of young players in both teams. Poland was playing rather in a unique fashion, their moves we different indeed. In my view, Poland could go a long way if they manage to spend on their infrastructure and their players get more international exposure.

M57 Argentina vs Netherlands, the Quarterfinal: This was the roughest of the games I had watched during this tournament. Argentina was comfortably winning but perhaps the Netherlands played with the minds of Argentina’s players including some rough body language and physical interaction. They stunned Argentina by equalizing 2 goals, Netherland’s 2nd goal was one of the best goals I have seen in this tournament.

Argentina’s crowd seemed to be made of an entirely different material; many of them were standing, waving, dancing, and singing for their team in their unique style.

M61 Argentina vs Croatia, 1st semi-final: As they say, Argentina played their ‘A’ game during this match and was dominant from the word go. Croatia was nowhere near them! This was the neatest and cleanest game I watched where both teams played in an absolutely fair manner.

In this match, I had a chance to take our grocery delivery boy Rintu with me; he came well dressed & prepared and thoroughly enjoyed the same making pictures and videos from all possible angles. He had a priceless smile on his face; even now whenever we face each other, he passes a smile full of thankfulness.

M62 Morocco vs France, 2nd semi-final: This match has its own charm as Morocco was the first African Arab nation to reach the Semi-finals stage. I watched this match with my dear friend Mr. Babar Hussain; while going to Lusail, surprisingly, we did not get much crowd on the metro train. We took shuttle bus from Lusail, the journey was good but we faced some delays near the Al-Bayt stadium. For the first time during the whole tournament, we saw slight mismanagement at the entrance as many people were trying to enter with mobile screenshots of the tickets or similar unfair means.

As we went inside the Al-Bayt stadium, we were astonished to see such a beautiful structure which seemed like first-class hotel facility. I offered Isha’a in a neat & clean prayer area just before the start of the match. Almost the whole stadium was in support of Morocco including us. France no doubt dominated the match; the actual result was 2-0 France but the lead could even have been 3-0 or 4-0 as well. Morocco was lacking the finishing touch and missed at least 2 close chances. The finishing touch is extremely important in Football and in life as well…

Observing calls from social media platforms, within my limited capacity, I brought a play card as well in context of blasphemous acts in France.

Argentina vs France, the Final: We watched this match in the Fan zone near stadium 974 with my family for the first time and it was a really good experience. We had to follow a single queue in order to reach the Big screen areas. There were almost perfect arrangements, with the snack bars and sitting arrangements as well. The only thing that could be improved is increasing the number of washrooms for future events. Families were respectful to each other; although it was really crowded, yet everyone enjoyed this memorable game by all means.

Lessons learned

Although, we do not have much background information or knowledge of football, yet like cricket and any other sports there are a lot of things to relate. I would like to share some of my personal lessons learned:

  • Self-belief is key to success.
  • Combined objectives are greater than any individual; superstars are good but exposure should be distributed on the team as well as they are humans with emotions as well.
  • Finishing touch (scoring a GOAL) is most important otherwise all your moves and smartness are useless.
  • Past records cannot change your current situation, one has to keep working hard to produce favorable results.

Post Tournament feelings:

People got really addicted to the aura of FIFA Qatar-2022 especially those who attended the matches or frequent visitors of Fan zones. Nobody wanted it to get finished. One of my Qatari colleagues, Mr. Yacoub Al Sai was so much sad even a few days prior to the finals. Things almost have returned to normal; there are so many lessons to be learned for countries around the world from Qatar. We wish that Qatar continues such success in coming years to come as well with a variety of new goals & targets.

I will remember the path to FIFA Qatar 2022 as one of the most fantastic journeys of my life. Long Live Qatar!

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