We will not go so far as to say that it was chilly but the thermometer showed 24 degrees, with a little wind, at the exit of the Al Bayt stadium, Sunday evening, after the end of the meeting. And inside the enclosure, the dozens of red vents that screen the heights of its structure continued to spit their breath. Qatar switched on the air conditioning on Sunday, before suffering it, from the opening match of “its” World Cup, by stirring up one of the many controversies that stick to the organization of this exotic world tournament.
And breath, Qatar will need it in the days to come, so that its selection recovers from this big air pocket facing the Equator (0-2). And to justify himself for having also given this image, before the eyes of the planet, of grandstands abandoned by the publicwhich does not care when we have been preparing an event for twelve years and we are talking about her great impatience that “D-Day” finally arrives.
The thrill of excitement didn’t last
There was only half of the Qatari “kop” left behind a goal that continued to sing in the second half, while Ecuador managed their success (2-0), hoarded after the first half hour , in an atmosphere that had nothing to do with the idea – or the experience – that we have of a World Cup opening match. The thrill of excitement that had swept through the stands at Al Bayt Stadium three hours earlier, when the countdown’s “zero” had sprung onto the giant screens, was long gone.
Beginning at the break, the departure of many spectators continued, like a distressing drop by drop, during a second period where we could even, on weak beats, take advantage of an airy silence, in sequences uncomfortable. The announcer happily announced 67,372 spectators as the match drew to a close, but that number had been imperfect for a while. And the stadium was almost empty when the Italian referee of the meeting, Mr. Orsato, sent everyone back to his bowels.
“MBS” in the photo
Disappointment mixed with incomprehension could be read on the faces of the locals, finally those who had remained in their seats until the end, after this good blow. A contrast with the frank smile that was displayed by the emir Tamim ben Hamad al-Thani, much earlier, at the end of the opening ceremony. Because before being a very bad evening, it was the big day, Sunday, for the small emirate, twelve years after its designation to host the first World Cup in history disputed in the Middle East.
And if the grandstand brought together the current emir and the previous one, Hamad ben Khalifa al-Thani, Tamim’s father, to the right of Gianni Infantino, a distinguished guest was installed to the left of the FIFA President: Mohammed ben Salman, known as “MBS”, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. A beautiful shot of union to give to the Gulf region, which had been shaken by a crisis of neighbors between June 2017 and January 2021, when the Saudis and their allies (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt) had cut off all trade relations and policies with the peninsula.
Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani witnessed Qatar’s defeat alongside FIFA President Gianni Infantino. (F. Faugère/The Team)
Because this is the objective repeated for years by Qatar, despite the long parenthesis of this old estrangement. This World Cup is not only the toy of the wealthy little emirate, which has established itself on the world map thanks to sport, but also a dedication to the Arab world. This was explained by Zara, who came from Oman for this match, but Qatar jersey on the back, leaving aside national pride. “Tonight, I am first and foremost someone from the Gulf, she smiled. Qatar has fulfilled a dream for the people of the region. »