Dubai fan zone buzzes with talk of spare tickets, pricey flights and who to cheer for

Media City comes alive for the opening match a mere 600km away, but many fans will settle for a beanbag and a sundowner

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World Cup fever was in full swing as hundreds of supporters gathered at the fan zone in Dubai Media City on Sunday evening.

Football fans from all parts of the world mingled and soaked up the atmosphere ahead of the opening game between hosts Qatar and Ecuador.

All the talk among supporters was about who would win the tournament and how far their own nations would get in the competition.

Other fans wondered aloud how they could get tickets for certain games while others asked if they should sell theirs and stay in Dubai instead to watch the action.

I have been waiting for this day for so very long. I think we will definitely cause a few scares
Mohamed Halouet, Tunisia fan

“I’m going to be staying in the UAE to watch the matches from here,” said Mexican engineer Javier Rosell, 41, who was wearing a UAE jersey, despite being a staunch supporter of his home nation.

“There will be a much better atmosphere at the fan zones and it will also be cheaper than flying over there.”

In keeping with the surreal nature of a winter world cup, the crowd in the Media City amphitheatre was treated to a song from Santa Claus before kick-off — followed by Christmas music piped out over footage of previous world cups.

Estate agent Grant Holden, who wore a Bradford City shirt, his hometown club, said he was travelling for England’s game against the USA on Friday — but there was a slight hitch.

“I don’t have a ticket yet for the game. If anyone knows anybody selling one please let me know,” said the 48-year-old.

“I am still going over though because the atmosphere will be amazing.”

Dubai-Doha flights too pricey for most

Brazilian supporter Paulo Areas, 46, said the fan zone was a perfect opportunity for him to meet new people as it was only his third day in Dubai after moving here.

“I am looking forward to the atmosphere here and having the opportunity to meet new people,” said Mr Areas, who works in advertising.

“It’s a great opportunity to sample the atmosphere of the World Cup.

“I have a ticket to go over for the game between Brazil and Cameroon but I am not sure if I wouldn’t be better selling it and watching from here — the flights are so expensive.”

Daily shuttle flight prices from Dubai to Doha are in the Dh2,500 to Dh6,000 range. Some flights out of Abu Dhabi are cheaper, in the Dh1,500 to D2,500 range.

Just because fans were wearing shirts from certain countries did not mean they were from there.

Sergi Basteda, 37, was wearing the famed blue-and-white striped Argentina jersey. When this journalist said he must be from Argentina, there was a swift correction.

“No I am from Barcelona! I am wearing this because of Leo Messi,” said the Spanish finance manager.

“I just love football and am not supporting any particular team though.

“I do think my home nation will get the quarter-finals at least.”

Tunisian Mohamed Halouet, 38, had no qualms about sporting his country’s shirt.

“I have been waiting for this day for so very long,” he said.

“I live in Dubai and will probably watch all the games from over here as I haven’t had the opportunity to get tickets.

“As for my own country, I think we will definitely cause a few scares.”

Ardziv Mano, 42, said he would be supporting the Netherlands in the tournament, despite hailing from Armenia.

“I grew up watching players like Ronald Koeman and Ruud van Nistelrooy,” said the IT specialist.

“I’m looking forward to watching the tournament. If you ask me, the winner will be one of Brazil, Argentina or France.”

Updated: November 20, 2022, 5:09 PM