World Cup Qatar 2022: Saudi, UAE football fans ‘beyond excited’ as tournament arrives

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It has been a 12-year countdown since Qatar was awarded the rights to stage the FIFA World Cup 2022 – and the wait is finally over.

The highly anticipated winter World Cup will kick off on Sunday with host nation Qatar scheduled to face a tough Ecuador side on the first day.

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One hour before the big kick-off there will be a huge opening ceremony at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of the capital of Doha.

Across Saudi and the UAE, football fever is high among fans who have revealed where they will be watching the opening match.

“I am very excited for the World Cup this year especially that I am experiencing it for the first time in Saudi Arabia and also since it’s being held for the first time in an Arab country,” Nadine Harhous, a Saudi-based sales manager, told Al Arabiya English.

“We are definitely looking forward to watch the opening match, Qatar vs Ecuador,” the 30-year-old dual German Lebanese national added.

“We are planning to watch the opening match at home maybe with some friends, so we can all enjoy the experience together.”

Harhous said that although she was not a huge football fan, she loves watching the World Cup. “I think everyone enjoys it because it gathers so many countries together in one place. I am cheering for my home country Germany, but I will also be supporting the Saudi team for it is my second country.”

A traveler stands next to a giant football in the new central concourse building at the Hamad International Airport on November 10, 2022, in the Qatari capital Doha, ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup football tournament. (AFP)
A traveler stands next to a giant football in the new central concourse building at the Hamad International Airport on November 10, 2022, in the Qatari capital Doha, ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup football tournament. (AFP)

Also gearing up for football’s biggest tournament is Saudi Arabia resident Jad Barakat.

“The World Cup is a global event that we wait for impatiently every four years… seeing all those stars gathered in one event is such a great experience,” the 31-year-old told Al Arabiya English.

“This time it sure is different since it’s taking place in Qatar, where the preparations and the theme of this global event are remarkable. As every World Cup, the challenge rises among us [friends] on who we will support and we think will win it,” Barakat, who is a digital performance lead in Riyadh, said.

“For this World Cup, my friends and myself decided to gather at home to watch the opening ceremony and support Qatar in the opening game against Ecuador. [It’s going to be] a superb experience to see what Qatar is planning to do, as it is always a joy to watch such ceremonies especially now that it is hosting this global event.”

Barakat added that he will be rooting for Portugal “as it is probably [Cristiano] Ronaldo’s last World Cup and the [team] roster of Portugal is pretty decent and experienced. Should be a very exciting event full of challenges and surprises.”

In the UAE, Dubai is gearing up to host football fans from across the world during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 with dedicated fan zones now open up across the emirate.

Dubai resident Monty Guhathakurta, 40, said he is “beyond excited” that football’s largest event has finally arrived.

“Dubai my home away from home and I’m glad to have lived in this city for the last 15 years as living in amazing city we are spoilt for choices when it comes to going out and watching events, concerts and sporting events.”

“With the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 now here, Dubai is going to have a host of fan zones across the city for the duration of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and we fans have lots of choices where we can watch the opening ceremony and the first match - Qatar v Equador - on 20th November 2022,” Guhathakurta said.

“I have chosen Fanzone by McGettigans at the Dubai Media City Amphitheater to watch the opening ceremony as the location is perfect at the heart of the city. We fans can experience the best atmosphere almost stadium like to cheer their favorite team and this venue will have giant HD screen, 25 TV’s across the venue along with live entertainment,” Guhathakurta added.

“I’m looking forward to the opening ceremony as world famous artists are lined up to perform such as Bollywood sensation Nora Fatehi, many of whom will be singing the World Cup theme songs Hayya Hayya which means ‘Better Together’.”

“All in all it will be one the best carnivals Dubai has experienced in years the opening ceremony followed by the 1st match Qatar v Equador on 20th November 2022.

“Me and my friends are super exited and cannot wait for Asia’s second FIFA World Cup & the first to be held in the Middle East.”

Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup in the tournament’s history.

Footballs greatest tournament will run from November 20 until December 18, with Qatar playing host to 32 nations across the globe during the 22 days of the tournament.

In total, eight stadiums will host matches during the month-long tournament; Lusail Stadium, Stadium 974, Al Thumama Stadium, Al Bayt Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Education City Stadium, and the Al Janoub Stadium.

There are eight groups in the World Cup; Group A, which consists of Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands, Group B, which consists of England, Iran, USA, Wales, Group C which consists of Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland, Group D which consists of France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia, Group E which consists of Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan, Group F which consists of Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia, Group G which consists of Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon and Group H - featuring Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea.

In total, there will be 64 matches played during the tournament, with the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium to host the World Cup 2022 final on December 18.

Read more:

‘We got a ticket’: Football fans from Saudi, UAE gear up to head to Qatar World Cup

Falcon picks Ecuador as World Cup opening match winner in nod to falconry traditions

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince in Qatar to attend FIFA World Cup opening

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