Qatar World Cup excitement builds as fans prepare to fly in

Supporters plan the trip of a lifetime as world tunes in to the Middle East

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It is only 30 days to go until the greatest show on Earth kicks off in Qatar when the hosts line up against Ecuador at Al Bayt stadium for the opening match of the 2022 World Cup finals.

An estimated two million fans are expected to visit Doha for the month-long festival of football, and excitement is building before the largest sports event to be hosted by the region.

For many, it will be a first visit to the Middle East.

But for others already living nearby, it will be a short hop across the desert on board one of the thousands of shuttle flights scheduled for fans basing themselves in the UAE, and elsewhere.

'My first World Cup'

Mexico fan Laurie Navarro, who lives in Washington DC, will be staying in the UAE and travelling to Qatar for France against Tunisia for her first World Cup experience.

“It will be an experience I have not had before, so it is exciting,” she said.

“I will be supporting Mexico and I’m hoping we can win the World Cup, but more realistic is we lose our fifth game curse and get beyond that stage of the tournament for the first time.

I am looking forward to the whole World Cup experience, and meeting other Mexicanos on the other side of the world
Mexico fan Laurie Navarro, who lives in Washington DC

She hopes the team can make it past the quarter finals.

“I am looking forward to the whole World Cup experience, and meeting other Mexicanos on the other side of the world to enjoy soccer in a way I have never seen before," Ms Navarro said.

“Visiting the region to reconnect with friends living in the UAE will be great, while we will be basing ourselves in Dubai for the World Cup.”

England expects

England fan Shane Michael is going to Qatar to watch his team play against the US on November 24, then France versus Tunisia a week later.

“I booked flights with Air Arabia from Sharjah a while ago and we have cruise ship accommodation on the Fifa fan website,” he said.

“I’m sharing a twin room with an old university friend of mine and for two nights we are spending £180 a night [$200, Dh734].

“As it is on the official website we know it is reliable and close to public transport links for the stadium.”

His return flights were Dh1,400, coming back two days after arriving in Doha.

For the second match, he will be taking a shuttle flight, leaving at 6am on the day of the game and returning at midnight ― kick-off for France v Tunisia is at 5pm.

“This will be my third World Cup, South Africa and Brazil were both fantastic experiences,” said Mr Michael.

“It was challenging getting tickets. I went through each of the ballots and was unsuccessful, a friend of mine sat through the night on standby on the online portal and kept refreshing the site until he had four tickets."

His plan is not to spend a huge amount of time in Qatar, Mr Michael said.

"I want to enjoy the fan zones in Dubai as there will be so much going on.

“If England get to the late stages, I would like to go but for the kind of money they are asking for tickets I’m not sure it will be worth it.”

Family outing

Behad Zare, 38, an Iranian businessman and Dubai resident of 17 years will be visiting Qatar with his wife and twins, Arsham and Arfan, 10, to watch Iran play.

“As soon as I confirm the match ticket, I will book a stay in Qatar to watch the three matches," he said.

“We can’t wait to watch Iran playing in the World Cup.

“My boys love football and I’m developing their skills to be footballers in the future.

“It is nice to have a World Cup next door and I will make sure to take them with me to be a lifelong memory.”

Iran will play against England on November 21, Wales on November 25 and the US on November 29.

“This year we have a chance despite our group being a tough one,” said Mr Zare.

“The teams in our group are better than Iran on Fifa’s rankings but I have a strong belief in our team.

“Iran was the best team from Asia in recent years, and we have strong strikers playing in European leagues and many players also playing in Europe.”

Updated: October 23, 2022, 6:19 AM