Qatar World Cup: Fans settle into 'Portacabin city' after chaotic start

Supporters make the most of Doha's Cabins Free Zone, where a two-bedroom stay is $207 a night

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

LIVE: Latest from Fifa World Cup in Qatar

World Cup supporters have settled in at one of Doha's makeshift fan villages after widespread problems in the opening days of the tournament.

The arrival of thousands of fans — many of them during the night — to the $207-per-night Fan Village Cabins Free Zone led to chaos, organisers admitted.

On Wednesday, the makeshift village was running more smoothly as supporters settled in — some for lengthy stays to cheer their countries on.

Located south of Doha, the village is made up of shipping containers turned into more than 4,000 two-bedroom cabins with bathrooms.

We had a lot of people arriving a whole day before, at 2am, and their booking was the next day. People without rooms are fighting, asking us where they will sleep. Finally, everything is going smoothly
Jassim Al Emadi, managing director of operations, Cabins Free Zone

“The rooms are OK,” said Alex Lopez, a fan from Mexico who had arrived the previous day. “They have enough to live here for a few days but the staff don't seem very prepared.

“They gave me a room that was taken by someone else. They gave me the key, I opened the door and someone was in there. I showed him my key and we had the same one.”

His sister Magdalena Lopez, who flew in from Belgium to join him as part of their family tradition, offered a brief tour of the cabin.

“The twin beds are comfortable enough, there is a wardrobe too,” she said. “There is not a lot of space but for a few days, it is fine for us.”

Elsewhere on site, guests had mixed reviews of the Fan Village, with the negative mostly focusing on organisational aspects rather than the quality of the rooms.

“We arrived yesterday and there was no room available for us, so we got taken somewhere else for the night,” said visiting Scot, Duncan Smith, 65, who was there to support Canada with his son.

“Now we are here, it is fine. The AC is always running, as is the water. It is good for what it is.”

Throughout the day, queues at the numerous check-in desks were often backed up 20 metres to the edge of the road, with first thing in the morning being the best time to beat the rush.

“A few people have told us they were given the option to take a room that hadn't yet been cleaned,” said Mr Smith.

“I would have taken an uncleaned room over being taken to another facility, personally.”

'Finally, it is running smoothly'

There are several fan villages available in Qatar, with prices going all the way up to $1,023 at the Fan Village Heenat Salma, an eco-farm and camp located in Shahaniya, north-west of Doha.

This particular fan village next to the Free Zone Metro Station can host up to 12,000 people and cabins cost $207 a night.

There is a 24-hour supermarket on site, alongside a pharmacy and 35 food kiosks, and the fan village comes with Wi-Fi and housekeeping services every three days. There is a laundry service and a secure location to leave luggage for those without time to check in before heading to a match.

Jassim Al Emadi, managing director of operations for the site, said a combination of technical issues and people arriving before their booking date had caused some problems, so they were keeping 10 per cent of rooms vacant for contingency reasons.

“We are having a lot of people arriving before their stay date, a whole day before. They arrive at 2am and their booking is the next day,” he said.

“People without rooms are fighting, asking us where they will sleep, so we are trying to manage some tents for people and some food and water while they wait for their real booking time.

“Finally, it's now managed and everything is going smoothly.”

Aside from initial snags, there is no denying the jovial atmosphere of the Fan Village. As guests gather around the big screens to lay back on bean bags and watch a game, it does give a familiar 'World Cup vibe'.

“The atmosphere is absolutely amazing here,” said Omar Garoot, 32, a mechanical engineer from Saudi Arabia.

“Everyone who wants to see Qatar, I recommend they come here to see this fan village. We celebrated until 10pm last night.

“The room is basic, clean but the room is only for sleeping. Starbucks, supermarket, restaurants, it is all provided.”

Once the tournament is over, Mr Al Emadi said the two-bedroom cabins would be sent abroad and donated to those in need.

“All of these [cabins] will be donated to refugee camps by the government of Qatar,” he said. “They will stay as bedrooms and be donated to countries in need, such as Syria and Pakistan.

“We are proud to be part of this project and thank the Qatari government for doing it. The target was to provide somewhere with a good price and a good atmosphere for the fans.”

World Cup fans in Doha: in pictures

Updated: November 24, 2022, 12:43 PM