Arab Cup pressure test Qatar prepares for the 2022 World Cup

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With the final whistle of the match between Tunisia and Oman, two football-crazy Brazilian fans set off for the next match of the Arab Cup, which will start in 90 minutes.

They are testing a core innovation promised by the organizers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar-fans can participate in multiple games in the smallest country in one day to host a global showcase.

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It took Edmundo Carvalho and Paulinho Rahs two hours to reach Al Bayt Stadium and missed nearly half of the Qatar-UAE game. The journey involves two subway lines, a 39-kilometer (24-mile) bus ride, and long-distance walking.

Nevertheless, the duo, who participated in 20 of the 32 Arab Cup matches, enjoyed the game that ended on Saturday. This is a shining infrastructure for natural gas-rich Qatar that has spent billions of dollars in the past decade. The first major stress test.

“We found here that people say good things about our country, receive us, are very warm to us, and very good to us. For me, this is the best experience ever,” Carvalho, who participated in the 2018 World Cup in Russia Say.

According to the organizers, although there is no major chaos in the Arab Cup, which is mainly attended by fans living in Qatar, there are logistical problems before the arrival of approximately 1.2 million overseas tourists for the World Cup next year-more than one-third of the population of the Gulf countries.

During the 19-day game, the highway was unimpeded, and the subway system service was rarely interrupted. Concerns about the COVID-19 variant of Omicron did not stop thousands of fans — many without masks — from squeezing into the stadium .

Qatar health authorities reported that there was no significant increase in daily COVID-19 cases, although the country’s first four cases of Omicron variants were detected on Friday among citizens and residents returning from abroad.

“In general, I think the stadium is ready and relatively convenient,” said Ronan Evain, executive director of the European Football Supporters Organization who participated in the Arab Cup in Qatar.

“The main problem now is everything that happened before and after the game,” he said. “The organizers now have a year to solve a certain number of problems, including traffic problems.”

In order to allow sufficient travel time between stadiums during the 2022 World Cup, FIFA will allow fans to purchase only two-quarters of the game tickets per day during the group stage.

“My feet still hurt”

To date, three of the eight stadiums are not directly connected to the subway network, and fans have to take a shuttle bus to take them a few kilometers from their destination.

On the way to many stadiums, there were no food, water and toilet facilities.

After 165,000 fans spent hours waiting to collect credentials, the mandatory fan ID was abandoned. In the stadium, staff often point fans in the wrong direction, and the parking lot is dark and crowded.

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Sara, an Iranian fan, walked more than 23 kilometers along the sometimes poorly marked route she described and participated in four games in two days. Her disabled friend walked by her without barrier-free options (such as golf carts).

“My feet still hurt,” Sara said. “We didn’t even do any sightseeing, just play games.”

The competition organizers, the Supreme Council for Delivery and Heritage did not respond to requests for comment, nor did the Qatar Railway, which operates the Doha Metro.

Organizers report that 75% of fans avoid public transportation during the Arab Cup and choose cars or taxis.

After Algeria defeated Tunisia in Saturday’s final, fans sang and danced outside the Al Bayt Stadium. The band played the favorites of Algerian musicians Rachid Taha and Khaled.

Over the head, the drone light show shows “See you in 2022”.

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