Doha, Qatar – It’s the primary time that 4 groups from Asia and Africa have made it to the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup. In-form Morocco are nonetheless within the fray. However for a lot of followers from these continents, together with the Center East, there’s another excuse to have fun the continuing match: It’s merely simpler and extra reasonably priced to attend.
Saudi Arabia and India sit on the high of the listing of nations with probably the most functions for Hayya Playing cards – which followers must enter Qatar for the World Cup – in accordance with figures launched by FIFA after the completion of the match’s group stage.
Whereas Saudi Arabia performed on the World Cup and pulled off its first massive upset, beating Argentina 2-1, India has by no means come near qualifying for soccer’s premier occasion. Nonetheless, guests from India accounted for 34 % of the entire arrivals through the group levels.
Mohit Kayan, who got here to Doha from Mumbai, stated the reason being easy: the World Cup is in Qatar, on the Arabian Peninsula, which is a part of West Asia. “It’s a proud second for all of us [Asians] that the continent is internet hosting its second World Cup [after Japan and South Korea in 2002], particularly since it’s so near India,” Kayan instructed Al Jazeera.
Kayan arrived in Doha for a match-day go to by way of Dubai, the place his associates joined him on a shuttle flight. “We arrived on the morning of the sport, took a bus to the stadium and can now head again to Dubai after spending a couple of hours on the fan pageant,” he stated.
Such ease of journey – getting from Mumbai to Doha takes solely so long as flying from the north of India to its southern cities – would have been unthinkable for followers like Kayan if the World Cup have been being held in Europe or South America.
Hayya Card holders with match tickets are exempt from needing a visa to enter Qatar. That, too, has helped, stated followers. Jin, a soccer fan from Malaysia, stated not having to fret a few sophisticated visa course of allowed him to persuade his associates to affix him on his journey. “Visa necessities and flight prices have all the time held us again from attending the World Cup,” he stated.
Certainly, attending the 2026 World Cup – to be held collectively by the US, Canada and Mexico – is already off the desk for Jin.
“The subsequent World Cup is in North America, and flights alone would price us greater than what we’ve spent on our total journey to Qatar, so we will’t even take into consideration going there,” he stated.
The most affordable flight from Kuala Lumpur to Doha in early December price $700, in comparison with $1,900 for a flight to New York Metropolis.
For others, like Zahra S from Bahrain, a World Cup within the Center East has helped them realise a lifelong dream. “I’ve all the time been a soccer fan however by no means thought of attending a World Cup till now,” she stated.
Zahra and her cousin Zaynab have been staying on the fan village in Al Khor, 50km (31 miles) from Doha, and stated they haven’t felt uncomfortable or unsafe at their lodging or inside stadiums. “Now that we’ve seen how handy it has been to be part of the World Cup, we’re undoubtedly going to attend one other one whether it is hosted by a Gulf nation,” she stated.
Fans from Morocco, one of many two African nations to qualify for the knock-out stage, have been among the many most boisterous group of supporters on the match. From gathering on the stadiums within the hundreds to marching throughout fan zones to drumbeats and loud chants, followers of the Atlas Lions have painted the city pink with their staff’s colors.
Rachid and his associates from Oujda in northeast Morocco have been following the staff since their first recreation of the match. “We could be right here to assist our staff with out feeling misplaced,” Rachid stated.