Qatar's Souq Waqif throngs with Arab fans by night after Saudi World Cup win

Market comes to life as region's teams take stage

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

LIVE: Latest from Fifa World Cup in Qatar

Souq Waqif in Doha has become the focal point for Arab nations' fans as their teams attempt to upset football's established order.

After Saudi Arabia's stunning 2-1 win over Argentina on Tuesday, supporters thronged the streets of the central Doha market, with chants in Arabic heard well into the night.

Away from the corporate-sponsored fan zones, where much of the talk has been about the cost of Budweiser, these narrow streets of coffee shops and shisha cafes are the real heart of the Arab world's global football tournament.

Before the event there were concerns how fan conduct would be policed, with curbs on singing loudly in the street or playing loud music set out by the authorities.

But the city has settled into an easy-going, family-friendly carnival atmosphere rather than the rowdy scenes seen in the squares of Europe's capitals.

"It is absolutely buzzing down here, the atmosphere is absolutely electric," said The National's Sarah Forster, who broadcast from the souq on Tuesday night.

Fans of the Al Suqour Al Khodhur, or Green Falcons, travelled in huge numbers, either driving across the border or flying in from Jeddah or Riyadh.

They filled the streets of the souq after their team's win over Lionel Messi's Argentina.

Many more are expected for the kingdom's fixture against Poland on Saturday.

On Tuesday, hordes of Tunisians from the nearby $200-a-night Fan Village Cabins in the Free Zone, Rawdat Al Jahhaniya, and Zafaran headed to Education City to catch the 4pm kick-off with Denmark.

Although that would end goalless, as did the Mexico-Poland clash three hours later at at the port-side 974 Stadium, there was no shortage of drama.

Tickets for multiple matches

Tunisia supporters cheer their team on in Souq Waqif in Doha. AFP

Most in Qatar have several match tickets with plenty choosing to fly in for games and stay in neighbouring countries, such as the UAE.

One of those is Cristian Succi, 48, a recycling manager from Buenos Aires who flew in from Dubai to watch Argentina's loss to Saudi Arabia and has tickets for three other matches.

"It is a mystery what happened," he said. "I just don't now what happened, this was a true shock."

Annoying glitches persist with the Fifa ticketing app, delaying stadium access for some.

As news filtered through of a Saudi equaliser to Messi’s penalty, cheers and chatter rippled through Metro carriages.

When Salem Al Dawsari banged in a second goal, that ripple became a tsunami of noise as a huge World Cup shock looked on the cards.

After a quick change of trains, we headed back to the 80,000-seater Lusail Stadium to capture what could be a momentous result.

Another reverberating roar at the final whistle ignited celebrations that lasted long into the night. With no alcohol available in the stadium, or anywhere outside, the aftermath was good natured, without the rowdiness of previous tournaments.

Ghutra head scarves were joyously discarded as huge green flags dominated the stadium concourse and singing echoed into Metro stations.

Over at Souq Waqif ― an eclectic old world shopping district near Doha’s port where TV studios are based ― huge crowds gathered to celebrate the Saudi win.

Hundreds of Moroccans mixed with Tunisians and Iranians, with Saudi fans revelling in the glory of the most unexpected of World Cup upsets.

Updated: November 23, 2022, 12:14 PM
NEWSLETTERS
MORE FROM THE NATIONAL