As the World Cup turns one, I’m going to reveal my experiences of the tournament in Qatar so far. There have been some remarkable matches so far, just like Saudi Arabia and Japan’s shock victories over Argentina and Germany respectively. Now, I will recall seven things I’ve noticed from my time in Doha.
Qatar police hit back
Plenty has been said about how strict Qatari police are and, to an extent, they’re right. When Express Sport has asked the majority to talk, they’ve not been in the mood.
Yet a couple of officers, whose names I will withold over concerns whether they’d face a backlash, have broken rank to give me snippets of information.
One policeman, when asked what their experiences of the tournament had been like, was firm. They said it had been a success, was always going to be and they don’t listen to the criticism ‘from outside’.
Another, more surly member of the authorities, made sure I wasn’t filming before he spoke. When I asked him whether a lack of alcohol made it better for everyone, he insisted it did and booze shouldn’t be a talking point when the football is so good.
It’s interesting hearing their side of the story, especially as it seems like they’ve been prevented from giving it.
At every World Cup, there have been immense highs and dizzying lows.
This year’s tournament, even if it’s odd to have it in winter, is no different.
There have been some thrilling games. Nobody thought Saudi Arabia would stun Argentina, especially with Lionel Messi’s side 36 games unbeaten beforehand, but then the world was stunned.
It was a similar story with the Germany and Japan game, too. The 2014 champions are now in danger of going out, especially if they lose to Spain later today.
As for England, their 6-2 win over Iran was stirring. Their goalless draw with USA, not so much.
Mixed beer rules
Most nights, I’ve not even had a chance to try and get hold of some beer. However, that’s not to say I haven’t been able to get hold of some…
The media centre in Doha, which is outstandingly modern, serves cans of Budweiser and Stella inside.
With Budweiser, you’re allowed the whole can. Perhaps them being one of the sponsors of the World Cup is why that’s the case.
Yet with Stella, you’re only permitted half of it. They do not give you the rest of the can to consume.
It’s odd, but it is what it is. Pints aren’t served, something that certainly wouldn’t happen at your average pub in the UK.
Fans sweet and united
Football is meant to be a sport that unites everybody.
Unfortunately, the tribalism of English football back home means that isn’t always the case. Far from it, in fact.
Yet, without alcohol at the forefront of things here, it’s been refreshing to see supporters all come together and thrive. Even on my train journey to France vs Denmark, supporters from both sets were singing songs at the same time without coming to blows.
Of course, we’ve still got England vs Wales to come. Two countries who certainly don’t shy away from a pint or 10.
But, so far, there have been good vibes all round.
WiFi in 2022 remains a hard task
Back in England, the WiFi isn’t always the best. It’s fine enough for those needing to file for the actual newspaper but, as a digital journalist, it can be infuriating when it comes to putting our work into our system.
Out here, it’s been hit and miss.
Journalists present at England’s goalless draw with USA on Friday were particularly frustrated with the connection. One of my colleagues, sat next to me, couldn’t get it to work at all.
Qatar has banned individuals from connecting to personal hotspots, insisting their service is adequate.
But it’s patchy and even seems to be impacting England players, too, amid reports they’re struggling with the WiFi in the country themselves.
Qatar state of the art
One thing I must stress, as my final talking point, is how fantastic the facilities and stadiums have been in Qatar – the WiFi aside.
Whether it’s at Stadium 974, otherwise known as the ‘shipping container stadium’ or the Al Bayt Stadium on the edge of town, they’re certainly prepared.
Take the media zones, for example. There’s more than enough room for everybody, with nobody too cramped. Something they could learn from at Old Trafford, in particular.
Staff are always working hard around us, making sure everything is clean. They operate with a smile on their face, as though they’re loving the World Cup experience as much as myself.
What a week it’s been so far.