Before the start of the World Cup on Sunday, there was a first fan festival in Doha – as a test run. Exactly who the fans are celebrating here remains unclear.
Whether in 2006 in front of the Brandenburg Gate or in 2014 at the Copacabana in Rio: The fan festival is now part of a football World Cup. Before the official start of the World Cup on Sunday, there was a test run in Doha.
The bass booms in the heart of the Qatari capital. In Al-Bidda Park, the organizers set up a stage with a giant screen, and right there a popular local DJ is spinning. The organizers were expecting 20,000 people – it may not be that many, but it is quite well filled.
“There has never been a festival of this magnitude here before,” says Marion from Switzerland, who lives here and doesn’t want to miss this event. “The world comes here for the World Cup”, tells a Macedonian who works in Doha and has painted a German flag on her cheek, “And we’re happy to see new faces. It’s a wonderful time for all of us here.”
A few foreign fans during the test run
On Wednesday, however, “the world” wasn’t really in Doha. Most fans at the festival live and work here. Many are actually from Asian countries and are now happy to be part of this World Cup. Nevertheless, you can see many well-known jerseys. Because India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka are not there, many simply become fans of other well-known nations.
“People enjoy the atmosphere here. They put on a shirt and come, no matter which country,” tells Marion. These statements cannot be verified. Recently, there have been increasing reports of fans being paid by the Qatari government to create atmosphere in the host country.
At the fan festival you meet Indian people who are Brazil fans and can even speak a few words of Portuguese, but there is also a man from Sri Lanka who is waving a German flag that is the wrong way round. When asked why he is a Germany fan, he replies: “I like the jerseys, especially the white color”.
beer in public
Nonetheless, the atmosphere is good. Everywhere people are dancing, cheering for the DJ and drinking beer. Because that’s allowed at Fanfest. The beer is served for three hours, the line in front of the drinks stand is long, despite the exorbitant price: half a liter of beer costs 50 Qatari ryals – that’s the equivalent of around 13.20 euros. “This is the first time in Qatar where we don’t have to drink in a hotel”says a Dutch fan, “And I have to say that’s very refreshing. It’s progress and a good thing.”
A man from Singapore who works for a Qatari airline sees it the same way: “It feels good. For the first time I can drink beer outside. This is really great.” Otherwise, this is only possible in front of the stadiums during the World Cup and only immediately before and after the games.
In terms of atmosphere, the test run went just as the organizers had hoped. It remains to be seen whether 40,000 people will actually celebrate and watch the games at this location from Sunday (November 20th, 2022). Especially since the temperatures during the day are still over 30 degrees – and there isn’t really any sun protection. However, the prospect of a cold beer may attract one or the other fan.