The FIFA World Cup in Qatar turned out to be one of the best-ever editions of the tournament with a final worth watching over and over again, for years to come.
Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, finally has a third World Cup and Qatar – the first Arab nation to host the tournament – would be relieved to see the tournament end up as a success.
According to a FIFA report, 2.45 million supporters turned up for the group-stage matches.
“Oh my God, what an experience that was!” exclaims Samrat Ghosh, a Kolkata-based entrepreneur who had travelled to Qatar for the World Cup, recalling the match between Spain and Japan.
“I was sitting with the Japanese fans and when their second goal was scored, the stadium erupted.”
“The dream since 2005 of watching my favourite football player play in front of my eyes came true at last,” Srutayu Biswas, another football enthusiast from Kolkata in Qatar, wrote on Instagram.
Samrat and Srutayu were two of the 56,893 Indian fans in at the World Cup. India had the second-highest number of people turning up in Qatar. Over 30 million Indians watched the final online, on December 18.
“There was a nerve-chilling experience for me, personally, as well. When Japan qualified for the round of 16, Wavin’ Flag was being played in the stadium. That moment felt like a dream – that I was finally there at a World Cup,” Samrat adds.
The 22nd edition of the tournament did not just provide fans with an opportunity to witness games but also saw several lucky people meet international footballers in an innocuous manner as the Western world moved around Qatar to know the country.
“My best memory of the World Cup was the day I landed in Qatar, on November 27. At the Al Wakrah Souq, I was walking along the beach and it was getting hotter, so I was thinking to get back to our rooms,” Samrat tells Sportstar.
“But my friends insisted that we walk around a bit. Just then, like an illusion, I see Jordan Henderson in front of him. For a moment, I suspected if this was real and then I turn to see Harry Maguire and Jude Bellingham sitting.
“I go up to Henderson and notice James Maddison behind him and someone clicking a selfie with Kalvin Phillips,” he adds.
The World Cup – only the second ever to be hosted in Asia – saw the continent rally with six countries from the confederation in the tournament.
Three AFC (Asian Football Confederation) countries – Japan, South Korea and Australia – qualified for the Round of 16 for the first time. The fans made sure this paradigm shift echoed far and loud.
In fact, in every match between a European and Asian side, the fans from Asia outnumbered and outcheered the former easily,” Samrat says.
“People might say that the World Cup happening in Asia might be the reason, but the distance between Japan or South Korea and Qatar is at least equal, if not more, as compared to that of a European country.”
Qatar 2022 saw many firsts – the first African country into the semifinals, the most Asian countries to ever play in the World Cup and Messi, getting his hands on the coveted gold trophy, his first World Cup title.
For fans too, it turned out to be beyond a tournament of 64 games – an experience to relish a football carnival in the Arab World and collect memories to cherish, for at least the next four years.