One Cup, one world, it’s all in Doha
The first thing that strikes you at the fan zone in Al Bidda Park in downtown Doha is the happy faces. And it tells you that the World Cup is here, in Qatar. It was the first day of the fan zone and hundreds poured in to soak in the mood.
The Argentines sang and danced wearing a Messi or a Maradona shirt. There was a fan with the Juan Roman Riquelme No. 8 shirt from the 2006 Germany World Cup. The Tunisians were vocal, so were the Ecuadorians. And beer overflowed.
At 50 Qatari rials (around Rs 1120) a glass it was expensive, but fans didn’t complain. “It’s the World Cup,” an Argentine fan said. The food counters were also buzzing with fare from across the world.
On the giant stage, Lebanese singer Myriam Fares was performing “Tukoh Taka,” the first-ever official Fifa fan festival anthem. Amongst a group of serious-looking security personnel, one broke into a jig. If a happily high fan was praising the bartender’s ”beautiful eyes”, another fan was giving his insight on Messi’s skills. It was all unfolding just as Fifa boss Gianni Infantino had said on Saturday morning — “1,00,000 people can simultaneously drink at the fan zones.”
Fares collaborated with Colombian star Maluma and Nicki Minaj, the Trinidadian rapper, to sing the “Tukoh Taka”. “How beautiful is the resemblance between football and music. Both are passionate forms of expression that unite people beyond languages and borders,” Fares wrote on Instagram.
The Al Bidda Park can accommodate around 40,000 people at a time and it’s expected to be full on match days. “A great feel,” said one fan.
The dazzling fireworks and the laser shows lit up the Doha sky and the fan zone was throbbing. Maybe the fan fest at the Copacabana beach in Rio 2014 was more noisy and boisterous, but Doha isn’t far behind. Maybe it is more organised and that is the beauty of a World Cup. It helps to unite people from different countries, coming in to root for their favourite teams.
The crowd at Al Bidda mingled freely with the local expatriates. Selfies were clicked, there were plenty of hugs and promise of catching up here at the fan zone. Even during the almost never-ending walk to the nearest bus stop, which would take you to the Souq Wakif metro station, the fans were in no mood to call it a day. “Ole ole” the Argentines kept on chanting and the Tunisians, their group had swelled now, gave the Latin Americans close competition.
At the metro station, the microphone man kept on giving directions. It was 1.40am local time and a group of Indians was contemplating changing the metro line to pay a visit to the fan zone. “Till what time it’s open?” they were asking whoever they thought could be coming from that side. Relieved they could still make it, a young man urged his friends and the senior-most in the group to hurry up. “Chalo, chalo we are getting late.”
The World Cup has surely arrived in Doha and no one wants to be late.