As the FIFA World Cup 2022 countdown gathers pace, football fever is high among fans in Saudi Arabia and the UAE who have scored tickets to watch the matches live in the neighboring Doha.
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup in the tournament’s history, and across the Gulf, citizens and expats are gearing up to flock to football’s largest event.
For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.
“This is the first time such an event is happening in the Middle East, and it is the chance of a lifetime, so I have to seize this opportunity as I am a huge fan of football,” 28-year-old civil engineer Thamer Abdulhadi al-Faidi told Al Arabiya English.
Traveling from Saudi Arabia, al-Faidi – who has scored a ticket for the World Cup 2022 Round of 16 – said he was excited to attend the global event especially “since Qatar is a close country.”
He said that his plan was to head to Qatar, watch the match and “stay in Doha for three days” during which he “will enjoy the vibes.”
Al-Faidi booked his tickets in July and managed to reserve a place for the round in December, but said it was not an easy process to do due to the huge volume of traffic on the website.
With Saudi Arabia’s Green Falcons participating in the World Cup, al-Faidi expressed hope that the national team will make it to that round so he can watch them play.
“Everything is ready; the t-shirts and the flags. I am very excited. I hope the days pass by quickly,” al-Faidi said. “I hope that it will be a good [tournament] and through it the world can see the hospitality and generosity of the Gulf region.”
Mohammed Moslem al-Juhani got a little bit luckier as he was able to book a ticket to watch the Green Falcons play against Argentina in the Group Stage round on November 22.
“My excitement is over the top, I didn’t even predict that I was going to win [a ticket],” the 28-year-old accountant said. “I am very excited for the Saudi team and hopefully they will do good. Watching any team at the World Cup is enjoyable but watching your national team is a next-level excitement.”
Al-Juhani’s road to the World Cup however is going to be solo as his friends did not manage to get hold of a ticket to the same match.
Originally planning on heading to Doha with friends and spend a couple of days there, al-Juhani’s plan changed.
“I will travel from Yanbu to Dammam a couple of days before the match and stay with relatives there, then travel by land to Qatar on match day and I will return back to Dammam once it is done,” he said.
“It is impossible for the World Cup to be happening here in the Gulf and next to us [Saudi Arabia] and not to watch it.”
Another football enthusiast, Faisal Bawazir, managed to get a ticket for the Belgium-Morocco game on November 27. Although Bawazir, a 27-year-old community manager, was hoping to watch Saudi Arabia vs Argentine, he said he was still happy to watch any game at the World Cup.
“I really wanted to watch Saudi Arabia playing, but the match I got will be enjoyable as well,” he said.
“This is an opportunity for us, and I am someone who loves football a lot, so for me it’s unbelievable that I am even going.”
He added that he is planning on enjoying the experience in Qatar for a couple of days but is yet to determine whether he will stay in the county or commute back and forth to Saudi Arabia.
“The vibes are going to be amazing,” Bawazir said.
Lucky football fans in the UAE
In the UAE, some lucky football fans have also managed to get their hands on FIFA World Cup 2022 tickets.
Lachlan Kitchen, a 40-year Australian living in Dubai, got lucky and scored a ticket to the Australia vs Tunisia match which will be held on November 26 at the al-Janoub Stadium.
“I am unbelievably excited,” he told Al Arabiya English. “I’m just going for the day. Australia isn’t a footballing nation so making the World Cup is almost like winning it!”
“I am really looking forward to spending the day among friends and soaking up the atmosphere.”
For those that haven’t managed to get a ticket, Dubai is gearing up to host football fans from across the world during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 with dedicated fan zones being set up across the emirate.
With less than a month to go before fans descend on the region, with many planning to use neighboring countries to Qatar – including the UAE – as a base to travel to and from tournaments, fan zones, featuring big screens, restaurants and entertainment will offer supporters without a ticket the chance to watch a slice of the action in the emirate.
Football fever will be upfront and center at the newly-announced Football Park at Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC).
The Football Park will open on the podium level of Gate Avenue and will host Michelin-starred restaurants, butler service and a concierge for fans wanting to experience the world’s greatest football tournament in style.
Also in Dubai, the Habtoor Grand Resort has announced plans for a ‘World of Sports Fan Zone:’ A tented fan zone with big screens, food stalls, and the capacity to accommodate 1,500 football fans.
McGettigan’s – a traditional favorite for sports fans – and DGT Events are also taking over Media City Amphitheater during the month-long football tournament, where fans will enjoy all the sporting action in an open-air fan zone.
British expat Mark Lomas and England supporter said he was planning to watch the drama of the month-long tournament unfold in one of the emirate’s fan zones.
“[I] was a bit gutted to not get a ticket, but I will be watching the games throughout the month with friends in a fan zone, definitely,” he said.
World Cup Qatar ticket sales near three million: Infantino
World Cup isn’t a ‘platform of political statements’, focus on football: Qatar chief
Saudi Arabia opens bookings for shuttle flights to Qatar’s FIFA World Cup
FIFA World Cup 2022: Circular listing ‘banned behaviors’ untrue, say organizersA poster shared on social media that requests attendees to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar to ‘avoid dating and drinking alcohol’ is not from an ... Gulf
FIFA World Cup 2022: Rules football fans should know before visiting QatarThe 2022 Qatar World Cup is less than 50 days away, with the tournament set to attract more than one million football fans from around the ... Gulf
Riyadh Season 2022 kicks off October 21 with 15 zones, World Cup fan festivalRiyadh Season 2022 will kick off on October 21 with a Cirque du Soleil performance and the launch of 15 entertainment zones, which will include a mega ... Saudi Arabia