FIFA World Cup diary: It’s business as usual in Doha

A lack of atmosphere and buzz during the first week made it an unusual FIFA World Cup. Crowds were missing in the streets but miraculously appeared whenever a game neared.

Football fever: Fans of Qatar at the FIFA World Cup at Lusail, outside Doha, ahead of the first match.

Football fever: Fans of Qatar at the FIFA World Cup at Lusail, outside Doha, ahead of the first match. | Photo Credit: AP

A lack of atmosphere and buzz during the first week made it an unusual FIFA World Cup. Crowds were missing in the streets but miraculously appeared whenever a game neared.

The diary is weary. Twenty one matches in 13 days. Is that also a World Cup record? Every morning starts sharp at 10 and now it is 1.30am, but still Tite has the energy for wisecracks. Will the diary ever see his bed?

The existential crisis will forever be a part of this World Cup as the eight stadiums in 55kms radius will always give you FOMO. (Fear of missing out, for those who don’t know. The diary, too, learnt this phrase just a week before – a kind Brazilian soul gave him a crash course on the internet lingo during one of those many bus rides.)

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Diary was there to see Germany win at last, but was the Japan-Spain game a better thriller? Those with the TV remote, the Coke and the popcorn would surely know. But don’t reveal the truth here and further break the diary’s heart.

Doha or Delhi?

At the Doha airport, it was business as usual. The Indians, making the most of a World Cup close to home, were quickly ushered through immigration and passport control. But where were the dancers and the World Cup fever? Was this Doha or were we tricked and dropped in Delhi or anywhere else where Indians are always jostling to sneak ahead in a queue.

A smiling Mahmud’s “As-salamu Alaykum” made you feel at home, but the stereotypical Pakistani taxi driver, too, didn’t know where the fans were. But in the newly unwrapped Al Bayt Stadium, they were there in number to see the host take on Ecuador. The diary, though, suspects Jung-Kook of BTS had a part to play. The baby of the baby-faced Korean boy band was trending more than the match that followed.

Veteran: Argentine journalist Enrique Macaya Marquez is in Doha for his 17th World Cup. He started with Sweden 1958, and it was not easy back then. “It was a DC-7 [the aircraft]. It stopped everywhere to refuel. And then we had to find a hotel. It was a miracle it all worked out,” he said while receiving a special award from Ronaldo Nazario in an event organised by FIFA.

Veteran: Argentine journalist Enrique Macaya Marquez is in Doha for his 17th World Cup. He started with Sweden 1958, and it was not easy back then. “It was a DC-7 [the aircraft]. It stopped everywhere to refuel. And then we had to find a hotel. It was a miracle it all worked out,” he said while receiving a special award from Ronaldo Nazario in an event organised by FIFA. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

But the crowd was again missing in the streets the next day and the day after, but they always miraculously emerged whenever a game neared; the stadiums were mostly full. Not 94 percent as FIFA said, but maybe those in the hospitality skyboxes were more interested in the dinner and drinks while the rest – with no drinks – were just happy to watch the game.

The diary’s time was mostly spent in balancing the laptop on his lap like his other friends who came low down in FIFA’s pecking order. The fifth-largest economy didn’t matter, India is ranked 106 here.

And sadly, diary’s 21 games can’t be a record. But Goa’s John Desa attended four games in one day while Argentine journalist Enrique Macaya Marquez is in Doha for his 17th World Cup. He started with Sweden 1958, and it was not easy back then. “It was a DC-7 [the aircraft].

It stopped everywhere to refuel. And then we had to find a hotel. It was a miracle it all worked out,” he said while receiving a special award from Ronaldo Nazario in an event organised by FIFA.

Now, that’s a record no one will break.

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