With all eight stadiums located within a 35-mile radius of downtown Doha, the 2022 World Cup is the most compact venue in history. During the group stage, this allows four matches per day to be attended.
Possible, but not allowed.
To avoid crowds and make more tickets available to more people, FIFA limited fans and media to two matches per day, with a four-hour window between kick-offs. But that’s still pretty good, right? Are you watching four of the best bands in the world on the same day?
And the Qataris said that with the availability of free public transport for World Cup visitors, which serves all eight stadiums, it will be easy.
But then the Qataris did Already backed down on everything from human rights to beer sales To the bus schedules and the menu in the media cafeteria. So this may have been another empty promise.
I decided to find out. Armed with a media testimonial and in no way familiar with Qatar’s metro system, I set out on Wednesday to see Germany play Japan at Khalifa International Stadium at 4pm, followed by Canada and Belgium less than 12 miles away at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium at 10pm.
I can see Khalifa from my apartment in Doha’s Al-Rayyan neighborhood, so that seemed a logical place to start. I left shortly after noon, and a leisurely stroll to the stadium confirmed something I had felt since the World Cup began, especially since the tournament had produced so little fanfare and excitement outside the stadiums or celebrations on the Corniche, meandering Doha. Gulf Corniche.
During my 30-minute career, I only passed one person who wore a German national team jersey. I saw no flags, no face paint and nothing like a march to a match. The stadium parking lot was empty three hours before kick-off.
But the match itself, which ended in a 2-1 victory for Japan, was due for the World Cup. Germany took an early lead with a penalty kick from Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, which hit the net of Japanese goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda. Gonda was great after that, making eight saves, allowing Japan to come back by two goals late in the second half.
The first came from Ritsu Doan, who scored on a rebound, and eight minutes later Takuma Asano put Japan ahead to stay, slotting in a long free kick from Ko. Itakura fights Defender Niko Schloterbeek then beat German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer into the roof of the net from a tricky angle on the finish line.
The loss is Germany’s third in four World Cup matches since they won the title in Brazil eight years ago.
German coach Hansi Flick said, “It is a great disappointment for us.” “Without points today, we are now under pressure.”
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu, who entered and left the media room to loud applause from Japanese journalists, said he hoped the win would show “how Japanese players are developing and improving.”
There were informative buses outside the stadium that would have taken me, with a simple detour, to the Canada-Belgium game faster than the metro. But because I’m a man of the people, I headed to the train station, guiding dozens of volunteers with “We’re No. 1” foam to point the way to the station.
The Doha Metro is only 3 and a half years old and covers just over 47 miles. It has three lines and 37 stations served by trains capable of speeds of 60 mph, making it some of the fastest self-driving trains in the world. The stations are huge and clean, although on Wednesday the crowd of World Cup fans made the trains tighter than a rush-hour Tokyo subway car.
My ride took me from Sports City, the penultimate stop on the Gold Line, to Msheireb, where I transferred to the Green Line bound for Mall of Qatar.
Qataris love shopping malls, and the huge three-storey Mall of Qatar, located next to the stadium, is their crown jewel, with 520 stores spread over 5.4 million square feet, enough space for 93 regulation-size football fields. The Villaggio Center near my apartment is just a fraction of that size but has a skating rink, amusement park, and ceiling painted to look like the sky over a river with gondolas.
The trip from stadium to stadium was 42 minutes and from the mall it was a 30 minute walk to the media entrance, which allowed me to get to my seat about an hour before kick-off.
Canada was playing in their first World Cup in 36 years and showed some nervousness in the opening game, looking for the perfect pass rather than settling for a good one. However, he had a chance to take the lead on a penalty kick in the 10thThe tenth Accurate, but Alphonso Davies’ attempt was weak and was smothered by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, becoming the first Belgium goalkeeper to stop a penalty kick in a World Cup since 1966.
Michy Batshuayi made Davies’ mistake even more painful, scoring in the 44th minuteThe tenth minutes for the only goal Belgium would need to win 1-0. Canada has played four World Cup matches in its history and is still looking for its first point and first goal.
After the game, I made my way downstairs to do a humiliating exercise called the “mixed zone,” which is common at international soccer matches and the Olympics. The way it works is that journalists are crammed into a large room and forced to stand behind three-foot barriers like cows on their way to slaughter. To get from their locker room to the team bus, players must walk across the room, but they are on the other side of the barriers. This is the only media available for game day with the players, who are free to pause and answer questions.
Most players don’t stop. To impress anyone even considering asking Gareth Bale a question after last Monday’s draw with the United States, the Wales captain was led across the mixed zone by some hired muscle in the form of a burly security guard.
The Canadians, as you could imagine, were the most cooperative.
“The biggest stage in the world,” said defender Stephen Vittoria, one of the Canadians who interviewed. “We didn’t come here to play well and lose. We want to play well and win. But we are on the right track. There is a lot to be proud of.”
The subway ride back felt faster, and it was more pleasant to walk back to my apartment in the cool of a desert morning rather than in the scorching sun peek out from under it. When I put the key in the door, it was just after 2:30 a.m. It had been a 14-hour day during which I’d seen four teams, two stadiums, two penalties, four goals, and taken train rides. It was as easy as the Qataris promised.
I think they were telling the truth this time.