Arriving at the Khalifa Stadium 90 mins before kick off. Chaos ensued as the QR code generated tickets only became live as you approached the entrance. Many didn’t and huge queues formed at the mediation office! Loads of unnecessary grief and nervous anticipation.
Nervous anticipation too inside the Khalifa Stadium but an early goal settled the nerves and the win was deserved…. Although no one in their right mind thought we would hit six.
Star man was former Birmingham City man Jude Bellingham. He headed home and Hey Jude wasn’t afraid to stick his head in.
When the heat was on, the team didn’t let us down, and the air conditioning from huge portholes sized tubes kept the heat off us! Brilliant! Very cool but not cool enough to think of Christmas until... ‘Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells . Oh, what fun it is to see England win away!’ rang round the stadium. Very bizarre!
Ahead of the match we enjoyed a great few days in Dubai arriving in the early hours from Brum on a Boing, Boing, Boeing 777, a mere 3,659 miles ‘over land, sea and water’ as Albion’s fan may sing.
A trip across the city in good enough time for the World Cup opening ceremony and Ecuador v Qatar in the huge Dubai fan park. As expected it was55 dirhams (£12 to you sir ) for an alcoholic drink so no-one got drunk on the fizzy pop – although other drink was available.
Numerous screens projected Andy Gray and Richard Keys to an expectant crowd, both personalities seemed larger than life, much bigger than we remembered them – maybe the enormous screens didn’t flatter them!
There seemed to be little support for Qatar from their UAE neighbours. A huge cheer accompanied the Ecuador goals. The joke doing rounds was: Name three Qatar players…. ‘George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix...’
Next morning the 50 minute journey to an outlying airport for a shuttle flight from Dubai to Qatar was more football like. A large number of success starved Welsh and a few equally large Americans accompanied the English on a good natured one hour flight.
We had a superb walk along the Corniche waterfront, buildings well branded, guided by efficient Qatar volunteers, and superbly controlled metro and associated queues. It was a bit like walking through Brindleyplace and Centenary Square during Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Today we even had the hot weather of Brum’s games week!
Contrary to expectations police were low key and friendly. No hassles at all.
It was a huge logistical effort to transport hundreds of supporters to Doha, Qatar.
It seems the Qatari infrastructure will cope. Bear in mind the entire population of the country, around 2.9 million, is similar to that of the West Midlands.
On the other hand folk were telling us the Fanzone at the stadium was a bit chaotic, luckily we found a good hotel in town with a beer zone and screens with a good mix of fans from around the world- our new temporary local!
In a few days we will head back to Qatar to spend a few days in Doha taking in the next two games via, of course, our new local!
So far so good….