From the moment that FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter revealed the name of the host country of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™, the entire nation of Qatar was overcome by joy and jubilation.
It was not just native Qataris who reacted to the news with great emotion, but residents of all nationalities. No sooner had the decision been announced by FIFA than a city-wide party atmosphere engulfed the thousands gathered in front of giant screens across the capital Doha.
Numerous hopeful Qataris had already begun to gather in the Souk Waqif area from three o’clock in the afternoon, although crowds in the Aspire Zone were slightly sparser at that stage. But with two hours to go before the official announcement of the host nation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, supporters of Qatar’s bid occupied every available space. Katara, Doha’s cultural district, was also overtaken by a wave of expectant fans.
And it was not just the locals who were out in force in these viewing areas. To the surprise of the home fans, many of the country’s large foreign contingent came out to show their support for the bid. The sight of expatriates simultaneously waving the flag of their adopted country alongside those of their homelands was commonplace, as was the ‘Qatar 2022’ logo, prominently displayed on the 22,000 T-shirts distributed to the public.
Vuvuzelas, the unforgettable symbol of South Africa 2010, made an impressive comeback in the Qatari capital. In Souk Waqif in particular, the familiar horns provided a noisy, joyful soundtrack to the live broadcast from Zurich. Both children and adults, standing to follow on-screen proceedings due to the lack of available seating at the Souk’s outdoor tables, heartily indulged in playing the colourful instruments.
As soon as the FIFA President confirmed that the Qatar bid had been successful, the entire town erupted in jubilation. Spontaneous bouts of Qatari folk dancing broke out, while an enormous convoy of vehicles took to Doha’s 7 km-long coastal road in celebration.
The immense procession would go on long into the night. Some travellers with flights booked out of Doha International Airport were forced to postpone their planned departures, prevented from going anywhere by the gigantic, euphoric throng of people in the city streets.
One of them, Mahmoud Hassan, told FIFA.com: “Due to the traffic jams, I wasn’t able to reach Doha airport for my flight to Bahrain. But you could see the joy on everyone’s faces. It’s really incredible to see all these people, Qataris as well as foreigners, celebrating the event together.”
The joyous reaction did indeed appear to be unanimous. Many football fans from other parts of the Persian Gulf had even made the decision to travel to Qatar in order to enjoy the atmosphere first-hand. Fawzi, an Omani citizen, was one of them: “The entire Gulf region was fully behind of the Qatar bid. We just couldn’t wait to hear the result. The incredible progress made by this country leads me to believe that they’ll be up to the task. I’m convinced they’ll be able to provide the necessary stadiums. This country has put a huge amount of work into developing and improving its infrastructure.”
Mohamed, from Palestine, was equally elated at the thought of the FIFA World Cup coming to the Middle East for the first time: “Qatar is a great country – we were confident that they would win. It’ll be the first country from this part of the world to stage the tournament. We’ll be following it as closely as anyone.”