Going to the World Cup is the most important event a soccer fan can witness in person, and I can now say I’ve accomplished that.
The week of thanksgiving, I made the seven thousand mile journey to Qatar, to watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup. After arriving at almost midnight on Sunday, November 20, I spent a week enjoying the World Cup atmosphere and the country of Qatar in general.
When I arrived at the Hamad International Airport, it felt strangely empty. There were very few people around, and the airport looked like a ghost town. That all changed when I got to immigration. Hundreds of fans from all over the world dressed in their country’s color were arriving at the same time for the same reason.
Outside of the airport, we were immediately greeted with the World Cup experience. Qatar was decorated with flags of the countries in the cup, tv advertisements were all World Cup related, and buildings had pictures of players on them. The metro also felt like a World Cup hub. Everytime we went on a train, we were greeted by fans of different teams. There were Argentinians clapping, Mexicans singing, Tunisians chanting, and Senegalese dancing. Everything in the country was related to the World Cup, and it was incredible.
The country itself was super clean, safe, and organized. I felt safe everywhere I walked, even walking home at 2am. There were people working for the country everywhere, giving directions, answering questions, and keeping everything flowing smoothly.
As a traveler, I also loved learning and enjoying Qatari culture. The architecture was mixed, with both modern and more classic buildings all over the country. The food was also incredible. I don’t think I will ever be able to eat hummus here again after tasting it in Qatar.
Going to the games was time consuming, but easy to navigate. Qatar had an excellent public transport system, free of charge for Hayya Card holders. This public transportation included a metro system with three lines that ran all throughout Doha, a tram system, buses that took you directly to the stadium, and various closed roads for walking to the stadium. Buses and metro trains were also fully packed, with tens of thousands of people heading to the game.
Entry to the stadium was organized, but not always fully functional. For the first game I went to, Senegal v. Netherlands, tickets were supposed to be activated into a QR code via bluetooth when arriving near the stadium. Although it ended up working for me, there were thousands of people that it did not work for. There was security, metal detectors, and x-ray scanners immediately after you showed your ticket. After that, it was like any other stadium experience.
Now, the games were incredible. The match was fully visible no matter what seat you bought. There were no obstructed views and the World Cup atmosphere was there to be embraced. It was an amazing environment from fans of both sides, and of course, World Cup level soccer.
The Brazil vs Serbia game was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and when I look back on this cup, it will be the first thing I remember. Of course, there is no bigger honor for a soccer fan than watching your country play in a World Cup. It’s a truly special experience. Brazil won 2-0, with both goals from Richarlison. The second goal was a spectacular scissor kick, and is widely considered to be the best goal of this tournament.
I could not believe I had seen that in person. It put me into pure shock for about 10 minutes. I still get goosebumps when I think about it. The stadium after that goal was roaring – 80 thousand people celebrating one of the greatest goals you could’ve seen in person. The only people not cheering were two small sections of Serbians behind the goal and on the sideline.
Seeing the support for Brazil was also amazing. People from all over the world would cheer or shout “Brazil!” when they saw me and my family wearing our Brazil jerseys, or walking around Doha with a Brazilian flag. Seeing the tens of thousands of people who were wearing our colors, especially at the stadium, a sea of yellow and blue everywhere you looked.
The World Cup was an experience like no other, and I will forever cherish it. Thank you for following my on-location coverage for The Pirates Hook!