There has been a lot said and written in the international media about the FIFA World Cup 2022 experience in Qatar. From some media outlets highlighting the country’s alleged poor human rights record to others criticising its anti-gay laws, there has been a lot written. However, at a global event of such magnitude, the most important aspect is the experience for the biggest stakeholders of the game—the fans. mid-day interacted with Mumbai-based Steven D’Souza and his friends, who have travelled to the last three World Cups, to learn how this experience compares to their previous World Cup trips.
A thrilling moment
“We are thrilled to be watching the World Cup here in Asia, so close to our home. We have been to Brazil  and Russia  and though there was more fun and action there, compared to here, we should respect a nation and its laws. We don’t have any issue with there being no alcohol allowed at the stadiums, there is plenty at the nearby fan parks. But the infrastructure and facilities for us fans here is world class,” says Steven, who resides in Malad. Ryan D’Souza, a former national-level footballer, says the free transport is a blessing. “In Brazil and Russia, we had to pay for our transport to and from the venues and even intra-city, but here all city travel is totally free with our Hayya card [mandatory entry permit for all World Cup guests entering Qatar]. And even the Hayya card was conveniently issued online without any charges,” says Ryan, a Union Bank of India officer.
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Local resident Arantelo Abreu, 56, reveals how the country transformed in the last few years just for the World Cup. “I have been living in Qatar for the last 30 years. And as soon as they won the bid to host this World Cup around 10 years ago , there has been a massive transformation on all fronts. New cities were developed across the length and breadth of the country, a swanky and efficient metro network was initiated and most importantly, everyone in Qatar, which is traditionally a conservative nation, were educated about the significance of being a good host and welcoming people of all cultures and countries,” explains Abreu, who is Head of Safety at the Chevron Group in Doha. Steven’s wife Charlotte sums it up as a safe family experience.
“As a family, we’ve had a wonderful time watching the matches here. The stadiums are beautiful and convenient to access, and my son [Jaden, 13] has thoroughly enjoyed watching his hero Lionel Messi in action. Qatar is a very safe place for women and children and I’m convinced they will host more such global competitions in future,” concluded Charlotte.