Doha, Qatar – Like 1000’s of different Saudi followers, Muhammad al-Dabbagh travelled by automotive final week to Qatar to look at dwell the first-ever World Cup to be held within the Center East.
“Had it not been in Qatar,” he mentioned, “it will not have been so handy, or inexpensive for me to attend a World Cup.”
And had he not made the highway journey by way of the Abu Samra border crossing, he wouldn’t have witnessed Saudi Arabia lighting up the match with an enormous upset in opposition to Argentina.
The Inexperienced Falcons’ 2-1 over the two-time champions on Tuesday set off wild celebrations, with overjoyed Saudi followers flooding all main vacationer sights and fan zones in Qatar. Shortly, it changed into an all-Center Jap occasion.
On the coronary heart of all of it was Doha’s Souq Waqif, the place followers from completely different international locations had gathered in a big group with their respective flags, becoming a member of within the singing and dancing. Chief amongst them have been Qataris, who have been comfortable to play second fiddle at their neighbours’ occasion after the hosts’ nationwide group misplaced to Ecuador within the match’s opener.
“We aren’t unhappy that Qatar misplaced, we’re comfortable that Saudi Arabia gained,” mentioned Bassam Muhammad, a Qatari scholar, as others walked by waving the flags of each international locations, which restored full relations in early 2021 after a years-long diplomatic rift.
Simply hours after the Saudi win on Tuesday, Tunisia pulled its personal weight to carry the higher-ranked Denmark to a shock 0-0 draw on the Training Metropolis Stadium.
Many of the greater than 40,000 or so followers in attendance have been rooting for the group from North Africa.
Amine, a Tunisian fan, thinks that the Arab unity on show among the many supporters isn’t unusual to see.
“Politics is completely different and persons are completely different,” he mentioned. “Persons are at all times united, even when leaders aren’t.”
Amine mentioned he’s a daily at Souq Waqif, the place followers from Morocco, Tunisia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia congregate within the evenings to have one huge occasion.
“Even Egyptians, Algerians, Lebanese and Omani followers are right here, despite the fact that their groups didn’t even qualify for the match. However no one cares.”
On the morning of Morocco’s first match of the match in opposition to Croatia, Doha’s central metro practice station turned crimson as followers of the Atlas Lions set off for the Al Bayt Stadium in al-Khor.
“That is the very best Mundial (world cup), and we’re comfortable that it’s in Qatar,” Rachid, and his group of buddies from Oujda, Morocco mentioned forward of the match.
Morocco, the highest-ranked Arab group on the match at 22, went on to carry 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia to a 0-0 attract what was seen as a win by their followers.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia play their second match within the match at Training Metropolis Stadium, squaring in opposition to Poland in a extremely anticipated affair to find out whether or not the Inexperienced Falcons can construct on their shock opening win.
It will actually really feel like enjoying at residence. Saudi Arabia ranks third on the checklist of ticket-purchasing international locations for the match, in keeping with FIFA gross sales numbers.
Some optimistic Saudi followers, like al-Dabbagh who travelled from Riyadh, say they’ll take into account staying longer in Qatar if their group progresses.
“This is rather like my nation, it feels no completely different,” he mentioned of Qatar. “And if my group continues profitable, who is aware of, I would simply spend the entire month right here.”
Match organisation guidelines don’t enable non-ticket holders to enter Qatar through the group stage matches, however they are going to be allowed on sure phrases as soon as the knock-out levels start.
However, Qataris, regardless of the frustration from their group’s early exit, promise to proceed supporting the Saudi group and the remainder from the area.
“We’re happy with all Arab groups and we are going to cheer for them as they go alongside within the match,” mentioned Asma.
Along with the assist obtained by taking part Arab groups, the Palestinian trigger has additionally obtained vociferous backing through the match.
Amine, from Tunisia, mentioned it’s as a result of all Muslims determine with the trigger.
“Wherever you go [in Qatar], you will notice a Palestinian flag as a result of we need to remind the world that Palestinians aren’t alone,” he mentioned, including that Tunisians usually present solidarity with Palestine every time their group play in a significant match.
Asma, who attended Qatar’s match in opposition to Ecuador, mentioned each member of her household carried and waved the Palestinian flag on the stadium as a result of they really feel it’s their accountability as Muslims to inform the world about Palestine.
“I hope we will deliver consideration in the direction of Palestine, and I additionally imagine that this World Cup will assist change the Western world’s notion about this in regards to the Arab world, and never simply Qatar.”