“I can get closer.”
“It won’t work. You can leave me here.”
“I can, yes.”
“No! I’ll come down here! The game has started.”
The taxi driver insisted on approaching the Al Bayt stadium, in Al Khor, where Spain and Germany faced each other on Sunday (27). All streets surrounding the arena were closed. It was necessary to walk two kilometers.
The reporter knew he would have to walk the rest of the way. It was the only way.
Among all the unique aspects of the Qatar Cup, being able to see more than one match per day is one of the biggest draws for fans. The organization and FIFA sold the tournament as a pocket World Cup. Of the eight stadiums, five are in Doha. The others are in Lusail, Al Wakhra and Al Khor, all on the outskirts of the capital.
It is also a round congestion tournament. In the group stage, four matches were scheduled at four different times over seven days. There has never been anything like it.
Would it be possible to go to all stadiums on the same day? Could a fan attend all four games? On Sunday, the day with the greatest distances between the arenas that would be used, the Sheet decided to try.
There were 14h30 spent, 10 goals scored, 360 minutes of football, 168 kilometers traveled.
It almost worked.
- 13:00 (Qatar time)
- Costa Rica 1-0 Japan
- Al Rayyan Stadium
- Distance traveled (from hotel to stadium): 24 km
The Japanese, excited by their opening victory over Germany, roamed the wide corridors of Al Riffa Mall of Qatar station, chanting “metro, this way!” (metro, on this side). It’s the words of a World Cup volunteer near Souq Waqif, in downtown Doha, that went viral on social media.
Fans argued with traffic inspectors because they wanted to take the shortest route to the stadium. This is impossible. At the World Cup in Qatar, all paths are winding, full of railings (generally snail) with the apparent aim of making the path as long as possible.
Even if the movement of people is small, as it was in Costa Rica and Japan, there are almost no exceptions. Three Costa Ricans asked for the passage to be opened because one of them was in a wheelchair. Only that one could pierce the barrier. The others had to make the normal route, under protests.
The dialogue between tourists and the traffic inspector was difficult because the fans spoke English with a heavy accent. Stadium officials and public agents in Doha are polite, patient, but speak English like Tiririca would sing “Nessun Dorma”. No one can understand. So they just point.
It’s what they do most. To point. We’ll come back to this later on.
The problem with going to four different matches on the same day is that worrying about how to move from one place to another does not allow you to enjoy football. Even if there isn’t much to see, as was the case in Japan vs. Costa Rica.
The Central American national team’s goal caused conflicting feelings in Alberto Ruiz, 39. He spent most of the game on the way between the subway and the stadium holding a sign that said in English: I need a ticket. He did not make it.
“Against Germany, I’ll try again”, he swore, referring to the confrontation next Thursday (1st).
- 4 pm (Qatar time)
- Belgium 0 x 2 Morocco
- Al Thumama Stadium
- Distance traveled (from previous stadium): 26 km
The easiest way would be to take public transport to Doha’s bus hub and then walk about 700 meters to reach the stadium. There isn’t enough time for that. The break between the two games is just one hour.
The way is to take a taxi. It is an incomplete solution because the World Cup organization makes those who do not use the subway and exclusive bus lines to serve the World Cup stadiums pay dearly. The punishment is to walk much further and lose time.
It’s two kilometers in this case. The descent of the car is on the side of the road.
“Do you want me to wait?” asks Omar, the driver.
“It is not necessary.”
“He is sure?”
As would prove later, it was better to have asked him to wait.
Finding the correct entrance requires prior knowledge or luck to access the arena through the region closest to the entrance marked on the ticket. Asking a volunteer for information is receiving a pleasant, polite and smiling response. And wrong. At the World Cup in Qatar, saying the phrase “I don’t know” is considered an unforgivable crime.
So, the explanation always seems random, with an abstract place pointed out: “It’s over there”.
It almost never is. The reporter walked around the Al Thumama stadium, out of breath in the heat, while Moroccans approached passing girls and asked for their phone numbers. As in a globalist Tinder.
Inside the stadium, they sang the whole time. It was one of the most beautiful parties hosted by a crowd at the World Cup so far. At least that was worth it.
When Aboukhlal scored the second goal, in the 47th minute, haste won again. It was better to go to the next stadium. Finding the route was yet another festival of fingers pointing in different directions and phrases “that’s it”, in another walk of more than three kilometers to find the bus to Khalifa International Stadium.
Nearby app taxis and cars were all booked. One of them could have been Omar.
- 7pm (Qatar time)
- Croatia 4 x 1 Canada
- Khalifa International Stadium
- Distance traveled (from the previous stadium): 12.5 km
Standing outside the stadium and hearing the anthems being played gives you a certain sense of despair. You have to run. Or, in this case, getting a ticket.
“It’s 100 rials. Do you want it or not?”
The phrase cut off any chance of negotiating with Mahmoud. He, for some reason, had given up going to the game and was selling his ticket to the gardens that surround the only arena that will be 100% preserved after the World Cup.
The report did not have a ticket for that match. Closing the deal was inevitable.
The money changer made an expression of contempt when asked if the ticket had the bearer’s name and, therefore, could be confiscated when accessing the arena.
“Of course not. No one will ask for your document”, he assured.
Khalifa has an advantage over most other tournament hosts. There is no metro station nearby. It has two. This makes getting around considerably easier, but shoppers at the Villagio Mall, with its reproductions of the canal and the Venetian skyline, compete for seats on the metro after departure.
There are also snail-shaped iron railings that force everyone to take a winding path. Lots of grids. And there’s always someone pointing out that the path is between them.
When Kramaric scored Croatia’s third in the 25th minute to secure victory for his side, it was time to leave. In additions, Majer would note the room.
When that happened, Ahmed, the app driver, had already arrived and was speeding towards Al Khor.
- 22:00 (Qatar time)
- Spain 1 x 1 Germany
- Al Bayt Stadium
- Distance traveled (from the previous stadium and on the way back to downtown Doha): 105.5 km
There is a moment when tiredness ceases to be tiredness. It feels like a spiritual zone where the pain only appears if you stop. While walking, she does not exist.
“It’s this way!”, pointed out the security guard. Showing a yellow facade on the left.
Justice be done to him, it was.
The problem is that going through the X-ray detectors in Al Bayt does not mean being at the gates of the stadium. There is still a path of 500 meters to go and uphill. For those who are rested, it is beautiful, with green areas, fountains and benches for the fans.
In addition to tiredness, in this case, there was the rush. Spain and Germany had been playing for 25 minutes.
“Do you wanna a ride?”
Emílio is part of the international program that takes FIFA volunteers to work at the World Cup. He was loving the experience. He drove a golf cart that took guests to the front door of the stands. He was doing nothing at the time and offered to help, which he accepted immediately.
Upon arriving at his seat, the reporter found out that the score was 0-0. Spain had hit the ball against the crossbar. The crowd began to rehearse olas in the stands.
In the second half, Álvaro Morata opened the scoring for the Spaniards. Niclas Füllkrug equalized. The only possible wish at that moment was to ask that the game be over soon. There were still 50 kilometers to go back to the capital. Four matches in the same day seemed like a huge exaggeration.
An hour later, on the bus, the question was to check which games it would be possible to see on Monday (28).