Fans across the Middle East celebrate historic World Cup moment | Qatar World Cup 2022 News

Qatar marks FIFA World Cup debut with a defeat against Ecuador on Sunday, but becoming the first country in the Middle East to host the tournament, it inspired a wave of pride across the region.

From cafes in Erbil to pubs in Istanbul and stadiums in Gaza City, excited viewers gathered around television screens ahead of the opening match of a tournament that some hoped would break the rules. opinion about the Muslim world.

At a cafe in the city of Erbil, capital of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, fans new and old sip tea as they debate the performance of the participating teams and reflect on the competition. The biggest competition of world football is about to take place in Qatar.

Rasul Farid, 26, said he first watched the World Cup in 2010 when South Africa hosted the finals.

“I didn’t expect [in 2010] that one day an Arab country will host the World Cup,” he told Al Jazeera. “One positive thing is that the World Cup in an Arab country will give a different impression of us, away from stereotypes. I’m here to cheer for the Qatar team.”

Men watch the FIFA World Cup in Erbil, Iraq
Men watch the opening match of the 2022 World Cup in Erbil, Iraq [Meethak al-Khatib/Al Jazeera]
Men watch the FIFA World Cup in Erbil, Iraq
The World Cup begins on Sunday, with hosts Qatar losing 2-0 to Ecuador [Meethak al-Khatib/Al Jazeera]

Khalil Ahmed, 29, said he first watched the international football festival in 2006 when it was held in Germany.

“I don’t think one day it will take place in an Arab country. I thought the World Cup was only for the West and America, not for us.”

Ali Kareem, 22, watched the opening match in Iskan, a traditional area in Erbil known for streaming football matches. His earliest memories of football are from 2007 when Iraq won the Asian Cup and he started celebrating in the streets with his father and friends.

“I love [football]and we are happy that the World Cup is held in an Arab country,” he said, adding that he would support Brazil.

In Turkey, football fans were getting ready to watch this year’s tournament even though the country’s national team failed to qualify for the 32-team tournament.

In the heart of Istanbul’s buzzing Beyoglu district on Sunday night, the Corner Irish Pub was packed with football fans watching the opening World Cup match between Qatar and Ecuador. There’s a mix of tourists and locals, and most people seem to favor Ecuador.

“We will show everyone [the matches] throughout the month in English,” Zafer, the pub’s manager, told Al Jazeera, adding that his money was for Argentina to win the trophy.

world cup match on television in a pub in istanbul
Zafer says he thinks Argentina will take home the trophy at the Qatar World Cup [Paul Osterlund/Al Jazeera]

Ersoy Ozdem, a veteran sports journalist, told Al Jazeera that he will support Argentina during the competition. He said he believed the World Cup could be held in any country, but noted issues regarding the timing of the competition, which is coming midway through the European club season.

“In my opinion, the World Cup cannot be held in November because we are not used to that,” said Ozdem, adding that a large number of players are currently injured and will not be able to play.

Tulay Demir, a Turkish journalist and writer who grew up in the Netherlands, is supporting Oranje.

Demir told Al Jazeera: “Although I think Brazil will win the cup, as a half Dutch, I am happy to know that my country is a part of it. Demir is traveling to the Netherlands this week and is planning to watch her team face Ecuador on Wednesday at her friend’s bar in the town of Dieren.

For Demir, having the World Cup held in a Muslim country is very valuable, but she expressed her concerns about the main controversy surrounding the event – the treatment of workers. immigration in Qatar.

Fireworks are fired over Al Bayt . Stadium
Fireworks are set off over the stadium at the end of the opening ceremony before the first match of the World Cup between Qatar and Ecuador [Martin Divisek/EPA]

The Guardian newspaper reported that 6,500 migrants worker from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in the country since 2010, when Qatar was awarded the right to host the World Cup.

The Qatari government has stated that these numbers, provided by the respective country’s embassies, include the deaths of people not working on World Cup projects. “Death rates in these communities are within the range expected for the size and demographics of the population,” it said.

The government says there have been 37 deaths between 2014 and 2020 among workers directly involved in the construction of World Cup stadiums, of which three are “work-related.” .

“The World Cup being held in this area is very prestigious, but the deaths of many guest workers cast a dark shadow over it,” Demir said.

“Those killed have seriously damaged the image of Qatar. It had a very good opportunity in hand and I don’t think they could successfully capitalize on it,” she added.

Fans in Gaza City watch the opening match of the World Cup
Fans in Gaza City watch the opening match of the FIFA World Cup [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

In the besieged Gaza Strip, an opening ceremony was held in Gaza City to mark the first day of the World Cup.

Hundreds of Palestinian fans and athletes gathered in the Palestine Stadium Hall, where fans raised the Qatari and Palestinian flags in cheers of support for the Qatar team.

Murad Badr, 42, said he came here today with his children as a fan, athlete and sports enthusiast.

“I have been watching the World Cup since 1994. This is the first year the tournament is hosted by an Arab country, and the organization is fantastic. The preparation is impressive.”

Badr told Al Jazeera that Qatar has put a lot of effort into setting up stadiums and infrastructure.

“Today, we come to support Qatar and the rest of the four participating Arab teams: Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Tunisia.”

Abdullah al-Saqqa, 37, a Palestinian table tennis player, told Al Jazeera that he was lucky to have been to Qatar three times before.

“From 2006 to 2022, between these years, there was a leap forward in the State of Qatar. Qatar is proving itself – its emir, government and people,” al-Saqqa said.

“Everybody sees that Qatar deserves this coronation and can send a message to the world that we, as Arabs and Muslims, can side with the international superpowers. .”

Fans in Gaza City watch the opening match of the FIFA World Cup
Fans in Gaza City watch the opening match of the FIFA World Cup in Doha, Qatar [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

Shahd Salouha, 23, is watching the World Cup opening activities with great interest.

“I am so passionate about football that I listen to matches on the radio if my house has a power cut. Sometimes, I find a place outside the house so I don’t miss the games,” she said.

Salouha said her favorite national team is Brazil, but she also likes Spain and Germany.

“I have been following the World Cup preparations for the whole year and everything I have seen has been very impressive. The museums, the stadium and the preparations are amazing,” she said.

“This is a source of pride for all of us as Arabs, and it gives us a sense of pride that this is an Arab and Muslim country with such great possibilities. “

Salouha also expressed gratitude for Qatar’s supportive role in the Gaza Strip.

“It is known that Qatar is one of the most supportive countries for Gaza, so they have all the love and respect, and it is a great country in words and deeds.”

Maram Humaid contributed reporting from Gaza City. Paul Osterlund contributed reporting from Istanbul. Meethak AL Khatib and Stella Martany contributed reporting from Erbil.

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