What is it really like in Qatar, fan experience, beer and food prices, stadium atmosphere

This was always going to be a World Cup like no other, but perception and reality are proving to be two very different things at Qatar 2022.

Major tournaments like these are often preceded by a sense of hysteria, but until it begins, you never really know what it’s going to be like – and whether some pre-tournament fears are founded.

Five days into the tournament, there have been some pleasant, and unpleasant, surprises for visitors.

Here’s a look at what it’s really been like on the ground in Doha — from the football, to getting around, getting a beer and the vibe around the matches and the city.

Watch the world’s best footballers every week with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. LIVE coverage from Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Carabao Cup, EFL & SPFL. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

DAY 4 WRAP: Belgium survives massive scare; Spain score SEVEN as Germany stunned

WC DAILY: ‘Going to ‘F’ Croatia’ – Canada coach’s epic speech; Ronaldo skips the presser amid ugly exit

Socceroos still digesting tough WC loss | 02:24

GETTING AROUND

One of the unique selling points of a World Cup held in such a small country was the proximity between stadiums, meaning fans could attend multiple matches a day.

But there were questions about how it would work in reality, and fears about how the city would handle the supposed influx of more than a million visions once the tournament began.

Almost a week in, Doha seems to be coping well and while the $36 billion Metro system is handling a large load – Uber remains king for many Aussie travelers.

There were suggestions rides would be hard to come by, and traffic chaotic, once the tournament started but they are still readily available and cheap – even a half-hour trip out to one of the stadiums on the outskirts of the city can cost less than $A20.

Things can get tricky around the stadiums, where road closures can mean a bit of walking for drop-off and pick-ups, but it’s still the easier option for many.

Metro trains can get packed at night, but they’re often quiet during the day.Source: Getty Images

“We’ve been getting Ubers everywhere – we caught a Metro home from a game two nights ago and it took us an hour longer than it would have,” Warren Livingstone, founder of the Australian Fanatics said.

Michael Edgley, director of the Green and Gold Army, said it was a similar story for his traveling party of Socceroos families and fans, although some puzzling transport management was creating challenges for tour buses.

“There are road blocks that are not being published in advance … and a lot of them don’t make sense – I think the transport management would be one negative of our experience so far.”

GETTING A BEER

It’s the thing most people ask when they hear you’re in Qatar – have you found a beer yet?

The tournament’s surprise backflip on selling beer at the stadiums certainly made things a little trickier, but in reality alcohol isn’t as scarce as you might think.

Qatar has strict rules around alcohol, but drinks are allowed to be served in many of the city’s hotels and bars, which haven’t been quite as over-run as feared – perhaps as a result of fewer visitors than expected traveling.

“I was worried about restaurants and bars being overwhelmed, but that doesn’t appear to be the case,” Edgley said.

Boyle undergoes surgery on ruptured ACL | 00:31

“You do need to make bookings for places that have alcohol but it seems like there’s plenty of places available and plenty of things to do so it seems to be working OK.”

Livingstone added: “That hasn’t been an issue at all for our guys… the night time action has been pretty strong with bars and nightclubs.”

It hasn’t been all about the beers though. The Green and Gold Army’s launch event was a dry event held in a desert setting.

“That was a great night that just proves – you can have a good time without a beer,” Edgley said.

FOOD & COST

The beers don’t come cheap, of course. A 500m Budweiser at the fan zone will set you back about $A21. The prices in hotels vary but some aren’t too bad – the cheapest pint I’ve found was around $A16 (research is a part of the job, you know).

Food prices aren’t outrageous, but you’ll rack up a hefty bill by eating at the venues or hotel bars every night.

But there are bargains – and sensational meals – to be had for the more adventurous and curious with a sizable feed at a local neighborhood Turkish restaurant, for instance, costing less than $A20.

Some Green and Gold army members were tipped off about a shawarma joint – inside a service station – by a local driver a few nights ago.

“And we had the best shawarma we’ve ever eaten in our lives for seven Qatari riyals ($A2.80),” Edgley said.

“If you want to find places, you just need to find the right people. I think that’s the moral of the story.

“You can eat out every night in expensive restaurants … but there is a migrant worker base here that is looking to do things cheaply and there are good solutions that are in place for that market. If you tap into them they can be quite interesting, fun and rewarding.”

A young Argentina supporter wearing a Lionel Messi shirt buys a shawarma.Source: Getty Images

ACCOMMODATION

There were startling images and reports of some of the conditions for fan accommodation, but most Australian supporters, and media, have reportedly had fairly pleasant experiences.

Apartments are clean and a good size, albeit with some odd design flaws and defects that suggest things were finished off in a hurry. Think windows that go nowhere, fittings missing and appliances that either behave bizarrely, or don’t work at all — or far more dangerous problems.

“I’ve heard a few horror stories of people having to change accommodation, but only a few,” Edgley said.

“I don’t think the building code (standard) is quite like it is in Australia,” Livingstone added.

Fans LOSE IT after Goodwin’s goal | 04:36

CITY VIBE & STADIUM ATMOSPHERE

Away from the stadiums, the city has certainly come alive since the tournament started, although it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Two Mexican travelers we met were taking short trips to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in between attending matches.

“There is just not that much to see here,” one said.

Australian fans are largely sticking around – mainly because many are packing in as much football as possible – with Doha’s National Museum, malls and dune buggy tours proving popular activities on rest days.

The Fan Zone, subject of utter chaos on the opening night, has since calmed down and fans in recent nights have had no issues getting in, or getting a beer and food.

People watch a live broadcast of the 2022 World Cup opening match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Hayya Fan Zone at Doha’s Corniche promenade.Source: AFP

At the stadiums, it’s been a mixed bag in terms of atmosphere, with some incredible and some noticeably flat.

Both leaders of the traveling Aussie groups rated the atmosphere within the ground below par for the Socceroos’ opener against France at Al Janoub Stadium.

Aussie fans optimistic despite loss | 02:23

Livingstone reckons it’s to do with the lack of Aussies on the ground in Doha – he estimates there are only around 2000 despite Australian government estimates there as many as 10,000 – and the stadium beer ban impacting the social element at games.

“I think it’s probably the most disappointing part of it, compared to previous World Cups. It doesn’t seem to have that social interaction because the stadiums don’t really encourage that outside festival feeling,” he said.

“It’s not that festival of football that other World Cups have been because people get there early, they congregate outside and have a few beers.”

Edgley theorizes it could be because crowds are made of traveling expats from around the region, rather than die-hard football fans.

“There’s not as many of what I would call the center of the football community, who are very important in creating atmosphere in stadiums, who are extra committed,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s as many of those that we may have anticipated and I think that’s across the board with all of the countries.

“So the atmosphere feels not as fervent or dynamic as what we’ve experienced previously. It’s probably only by a little but it’s noticeable. “

THE FOOTBALL

Qatar is living up to the hype as a football addict’s dream. Four games a day, in a country smaller than the state of Connecticut, means unparalleled access to World Cup football and Aussie fans are cashing in.

Some Green and Gold Army members are going to as many as 20 matches across the tournament and tickets can still be snapped up – especially if you’re clever about monitoring FIFA’s online ticket hub for when they appear.

“It has been wall-to-wall football, going to two games a day has been phenomenal,” Livingstone added.

“This World Cup has been all about football and I think people have just been going to as much as they possibly can, and I think that’s what they will remember most.”

.

Leave a Reply