As the World Cup turns 1, I will share my experiences of the tournament in Qatar so far. There have been some notable matches so far, such as Saudi Arabia and Japan’s shock wins over Argentina and Germany respectively. Now I will mention seven things that I observed during my stay in Doha.
Qatar police retaliated
Much has been made about how strict the Qatari police are, and in some ways, rightly so. When Express Sport asked most to speak, they were in no mood.
A few officers, whose names I shall withhold because of their concern that they would still face a backlash, broke ranks to give me snippets of information.
When asked how his experience with the tournament was, one policeman responded emphatically. They said that it was successful, it would always be, and they did not listen to criticism from “outside”.
Another, louder member of the authorities made sure I wasn’t filming before he spoke. When asked if the lack of alcohol was good for everyone, he insisted that drinking should not be a topic of conversation when the football is this good.
It’s interesting to hear their side of the story, especially since they seem to have been discouraged from giving it.
Every World Cup has had great highs and dizzying lows.
This year’s tournament, strange as it is in winter, is no different.
There have been some exciting games. No one thought Saudi Arabia would stun Argentina, especially as Lionel Messi’s side went 36 games unbeaten beforehand, but then the world was stunned.
It was a similar story with the Germany vs. Japan game. The 2014 champions are now in danger of going out, especially if they lose to Spain today.
As for England, their 6-2 win over Iran was thrilling. They don’t have many goalless draws against USA.
Mixed beer rules
Most nights, I haven’t even had the chance to try a little beer. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t catch some…
Doha’s state-of-the-art media center serves cans of Budweiser and Stella inside.
With Budweiser, the whole can is allowed. Perhaps it is the fact that they are one of the sponsors of the World Cup.
However, with Stella, only half of that is allowed. They don’t give you the remaining box to consume.
It’s strange, but it’s true. Pints are not served, something that won’t happen in your average pub in the UK.
Fans are sweet and united
Football is a sport that unites everyone.
Unfortunately, the tribalism of English football at home means that this is not always the case. Far from it, actually.
However, it was refreshing to see the supporters all come together and thrive here, without alcohol at the forefront of it all. Even on my train trip to France and Denmark, fans from both sets were singing at the same time.
Of course, there is still England and Wales to come. Two countries that don’t mind a pint or 10 of course.
But so far, good vibes all around.
WiFi in 2022 remains a challenge
WiFi isn’t always the best in the UK. That’s good enough for those of us who want to apply to a real newspaper, but as digital journalists it can be infuriating when it comes to getting our work into our system.
Here, it was hit and miss.
Journalists who attended England’s goalless draw with the United States on Friday were particularly disappointed by the link. One of my co-workers sat next to me and couldn’t get it to work at all.
Qatar has banned individuals from connecting to private hotspots, insisting services are adequate.
However, it is uneven and even affects UK players as they are reportedly struggling with WiFi in the country.
Qatar is the most modern state
One thing I have to highlight as my final talk is how fantastic the facilities and stadiums in Qatar are – WiFi aside.
Whether it’s at Stadium 974, known as the ‘shipping container stadium’, or Al Beit Stadium on the outskirts of the city, they’re sure to be ready.
Take media zones for example. There is enough space for everyone, no one is too cramped. Something they could learn from, especially at Old Trafford.
The staff are always working hard around us, making sure everything is clean. They work with smiles on their faces, as if they love the World Cup experience as much as I do.
What a week so far.