The wait for perhaps the most controversial World Cup of recent times to begin is over. Qatar and Ecuador got the tournament underway on Sunday, with the South Americans recording a comfortable 2-0 victory thanks to two goals from Enner Valencia. However, there was chaos elsewhere prior to kick-off.
Chaotic scenes broke out inside and outside of the Al Bidda Fan Park in Doha around an hour before kick-off in the opening game of the competition. The venue has a capacity of 40,000 people but at least double that amount tried to enter, which forced local authorities to intervene.
“It was dangerous,” one fan who was carrying a four-year-old child told Reuters after he had left the holding area. “They let far too many people in. We never got to the main area of the park and I’m glad we left,” he added. It took police 45 minutes to clear excess fans from the area.
Fans, volunteers and frustrated locals were visibly irate with the police, although some supporters from other countries appeared to be more understanding. While there seemed to be total disorganisation in the holding area, things were rather more tranquil inside, with Brazilian fan Raphael de Jesus enjoying the atmosphere.
“I think Qatar is going to be a great host. Now that the games have started, the atmosphere is picking up. This is my third World Cup after 2014 and 2018 and it’s been well organised until now.”
Controversy over late U-turn regarding beer sales in Qatar
After the controversial last-minute decision made by Qatari officials to ban the consumption and sale of alcohol around stadiums, fans are able to buy and drink beer at the FIFA Fan Festival at Al Bidda Park, which has been set up in Doha for the duration of the tournament. The consumption and buying of alcohol is tightly controlled rather than banned in Qatar.