Football lovers in the UAE are planning flying visits to Qatar in the weeks to come to cheer on their heroes at the World Cup.
The month-long sporting spectacle — being held in the Middle East for the first time — is off to a thrilling start with upset wins and a glut of goals in the first round of fixtures.
With Doha only a short flight away, many supporters in the UAE are planning whistle-stop tours to see the action up close.
FlyDubai and Qatar Airways will operate up to 120 daily shuttle flights in and out of DWC until December 19, carrying football fans to Doha for the game and back to Dubai.
Anjali Menon and her husband Rajiv Menon, from Dubai, are excited over their second taste of the tournament having attended Russia in 2018.
The couple from Kerala are flying to Qatar on December 7 to take in a trio of games during the knockout stages.
“The World Cup in Russia was an unforgettable experience for us,” said Ms Menon who works in sales and marketing for a finance company. "This time, we have bought tickets for three matches — two quarter-finals and one semi-final. All three are going to be nail-biting matches.
“I am a Lionel Messi fan and will be rooting for Argentina. Rajiv is a Ronaldo supporter and hence he is backing Portugal.”
The couple said they spent Dh1,200 ($326) each for the quarter-final tickets and Dh2,500 each for the semi.
“The return flight tickets cost us around Dh1500," said Ms Menon. "We are staying with friends in Doha and thus saved on hotel cost.”
Both of them will work remotely on non-match days and that helped them save on leave as well as choose cheaper flight dates.
Student set to cheer on Messi
Madhav Manoj, 21, a student at the Canadian University Dubai, is flying to Qatar to cheer for Lionel Messi, his all time-favourite player.
“My father works in Qatar and it is easy for me to fly in and stay with him. We are going to watch Argentina play against Mexico,” he said.
“I really want Argentina to win as this is Messi’s last World Cup. His is like magic on the field.”
Anfal Kavungal, a travel agent from Kerala, is a Brazil fan but had to settle for the match between Germany and Costa Rica on December 1.
“I did not get tickets for any Brazil match," he said. "Me and a group of friends bought tickets for Dh260 during a special offer available in August.
“It is touch and go for me. I will fly Qatar Airways on December 1 and will return early morning the next day after watching the match that starts at 11pm on Friday.”
His economy ticket cost Dh1,400.
“How can we miss this World Cup when it is happening so close by? I want to have the experience of watching a World Cup match from the stadium."
Rooting for Ronaldo
Indian Vijayshankar Kavasseri said he is flying in to watch Portugal against South Korea next week, travelling with his wife and four children.
“We will be supporting Portugal as we are fans of Cristiano Ronaldo,” said the facilities manager.
The family are travelling from Dubai with flights costing him Dh10,000 for all four.
“We are going because the World Cup is the most prestigious sporting event in the sporting calendar,” he said.
Roaring on the Three Lions
Qasim Sharif, from England, is travelling on Friday along with his daughter to support his home nation against the US and then back again for the final group game against Wales.
“We are looking forward to it as it is a once-in-a-lifetime event and I can’t wait to share it with my daughter,” said Mr Sharif, who works as a financial controller for a hotel group.
“Though World Cups happen every four years, who knows where we will be the next time it happens?
“We’re excited to take this opportunity while we can.”
Daily shuttle flights for him and his daughter are costing him Dh3,500.