Al-Bait Stadium (al khor): Sometimes, to exhale, you blow off steam. Qatar was spewing fire. Throwing out jovial, friendly flames was finally able to show the world all that he had been dreaming up, designing and working on quietly for all these years of skepticism from the Western world. It was as if they were shaking off all the derision, like you would brush off the desert sand that blows into these parts and settles on your being, then continue on. It was that kind of feeling. You couldn’t avoid it.
Qatar finally needed to exhale. It was quiet for a long time. It is, paradoxically, performed by a native people who are a minority in their land, compared to the almost 80% foreign workforce who help hold their country, for a time as a backward pearling centre, to sing its national anthem. Sang to, it was clear. He discovered natural gas and all that it could do. On Sunday, in the desert chill of an evening, singing louder than the others at the gleaming, packed Al-Bait Stadium in Al Khor city, which literally means Creek, they were only reaffirming to the world that this It’s theirs, that they made it. And that, welcome to the world.
Outside, with out-of-arrangement, shuttles and scans well-oiled and running smoothly, VIP guests and regular ticket-buyers dazzle in brief, sweaty rendezvous by a mainly Indian and African volunteer army Beginning, inside it was a thunderous show of sound, light and colour. And Morgan Freeman’s rich, assured baritone is telling us what we already know about the unifying power of football, but we drink it in as if we’re hearing it for the first time. But that’s what Freeman and his voice can do.
FIFA World Cup 2022 opening ceremony
It was a sweet irony. His words brought minds back to the media buffet two days ago, when rows of cheerful African staff were serving rows of predominantly white media waiting plate by hand for the day’s meal. The upside down symbolism was as powerful as it was amusing.
To think that while the European media were continuing to point out all the evils and actions of a discriminatory state, but themselves stepping over the line of casual racism as they did, it was Freeman, a black and So subtly it had slipped into the role of Nelson Mandela on the screen that he paused to listen, looking up from his laptop. But that’s what Morgan Freeman and his voice can do.
Down on Al-Bait turf, Qatar was so eager to get things started, as if waiting to see if anything else was ‘exposed’ or brought to light by another watchdog world. whether it failed or diverted attention, that the actual World Cup was already underway before the stadium announcer could complete his stadium countdown. It was such a relief. The curiosity appeared when their national team, and its size, skewed almost immediately and everywhere, allowing a good Ecuadorian team to settle down and make good use of the width of the pitch. First time, getting big stage fright? Maybe, as football took over and played to equal strength.
Ener Valencia Ecuador (left) celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal. (Getty Images)
No player in history has ever scored two goals in the first match of the World Cup, Ecuador’s Enner Valencia could have got a hat-trick in the first half itself, if VAR had noticed less than half a foot between Michael Estrada and his marker five would have been discovered, loud, very few minutes from the halter start. For a while, everyone was confused as to why the game would not be restarted after Valencia leapfrogged his man and subsequently headed for a fine goal. Saad Alsheeb, Qatar’s goalkeeper, perhaps taken aback by the enormity of the occasion, went berserk in the scramble leaving his goal open and forgot to collect the ball in the process. Then you realized the VAR court was in session – yes, now that the game has finally come to an end, other issues are sure to mess things up.
Ecuadorians were not to be discouraged for long. In the 13th minute, Valencia again found themselves shaping Al Sheeb with a through ball from deep. The hosts goalkeeper brought him down, Valencia almost half-heartedly slotting in from the spot but it was, in fact, a smartly taken penalty to go one-up.
Then just over an hour later, our man was up again and went home to more or less settle the issue. He did so as the game ended 2–0, but this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the locals at the stadium. It showed in the courage and effort shown by the home side to try to make something happen and not let down their support at home. Something tells us that even if football ends and the big guys take their stage this winter month in the desert, it won’t be over.