Middle Eastern fans rejoice after a historic World Cup event.
Fans gathered as the World Cup in Qatar began, from cafes in Erbil to pubs in Istanbul to stadiums in Gaza City.
Despite suffering a loss to Ecuador on Sunday to mark its FIFA World Cup debut, Qatar has sparked a wave of pride in the Middle East by becoming the first country to host the competition.
Excited spectators gathered in front of television screens in cafes in Erbil, pubs in Istanbul, and stadiums in Gaza City in anticipation of the first match of a tournament that some hope will dispel misconceptions about the Islamic world.
Fans of various ages sipped tea in a café in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, while they discussed the relative merits of the competing teams and thought about the World Cup’s upcoming visit to Qatar.
26-year-old Rasul Farid claimed that the 2010 World Cup, which South Africa hosted, was his first World Cup to watch.
He told Al Jazeera, “I did not imagine [in 2010] that one day an Arab country would host the World Cup. “It’s good that the World Cup will be held in an Arab nation because it will break down stereotypes and present us in a different light. To support the Qatari team, I’m here.
The first time Khalil Ahmed, 29, saw the worldwide football extravaganza was in 2006 when it was staged in Germany.
“I never imagined that would happen in an Arab nation one day. I believed that we weren’t eligible for the World Cup; it was exclusively for the West and America.
The first game was viewed by Ali Kareem, 22, at Iskan, a well-known location in Erbil for streaming football games. His first recollections of football are from 2007 when he began celebrating in the streets with his father and friends after Iraq won the Asian Cup.
He added, “I adore [football], and we are really glad that the World Cup is being staged in an Arab country. I’ll be supporting Brazil.
Despite the national team of Turkey failing to earn a spot in the 32-team tournament, football fans in Turkey prepared to watch this year’s competition.
On Sunday night, football enthusiasts gathered in the Corner Irish Pub in Istanbul’s bustling Beyoglu neighborhood to watch the World Cup’s first game between Qatar and Ecuador. Both locals and tourists were present, and the majority of them seemed to support Ecuador.
The manager of the bar, Zafer, said to Al Jazeera, “We’ll display all [the matches] during the month in English,” adding that he was betting on Argentina to take home the trophy.
Veteran sports writer Ersoy Ozdem revealed to Al Jazeera that he would be rooting for Argentina throughout the campaign. Although he observed that the World Cup would take place in the middle of the European club season, he stated that he thought it could be staged in any nation.
The World Cup shouldn’t be held in November, in Ozdem’s opinion, because we aren’t used to it and a lot of players are currently injured and won’t be able to compete.
The Oranje is being supported by Tulay Demir, a Turkish journalist, and author who was born and raised in the Netherlands.
Demir told Al Jazeera, “As someone who is half-Dutch, I am quite delighted to know that my nation is part of it even though I think Brazil will win the cup. Demir is traveling to the Netherlands this week and intends to attend her friend’s bar in the town of Dieren to see her team play Ecuador on Wednesday.
Demir expressed her appreciation for the World Cup taking place in a Muslim nation, but she also voiced her disapproval of the main topic of contention surrounding the event: the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar.
Since 2010, when Qatar was given the World Cup, 6,500 migrant laborers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have perished there, according to The Guardian newspaper.
According to the Qatari government, these figures—which were submitted by the embassies of the relevant nations—included fatalities of individuals not involved in World Cup-related operations.
According to the size and demography of the population, “the death rate among these localities is within the predicted range.”
Three of the 37 deaths among personnel directly involved in building World Cup stadiums between 2014 and 2020, according to the authorities, were “work-related.”
The deaths of numerous migrant workers have cast a shadow over the highly prestigious World Cup that is being organized in this area, according to Demir.
“The loss of life has negatively impacted Qatar’s reputation. It had great potential, but I don’t believe they were able to make use of it,” she continued.
A ceremony to mark the start of the World Cup was held in Gaza City, which is under siege.
In the Palestine Stadium Hall, hundreds of Palestinian athletes and supporters gathered. The crowd raised the Qatari and Palestinian flags while applauding the Qatari team.
The 42-year-old Murad Badr claimed to be a fan, an athlete, and a sports fanatic who came here today with his kids.
Since 1994, I have followed the World Cup. It is being held for the first time this year by an Arab nation, and it is fantastic. The planning is impressive.
According to Badr, Qatar has put a lot of work into building infrastructure and stadiums.
We arrived today to show our support for Qatar and the other three participating Arab nations, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Table tennis player for the Palestinian national team Abdullah al-Saqqa, 37, told Al Jazeera he was fortunate to have been to Qatar three times.
“The State of Qatar has seen a quantum leap between the years of 2006 and 2022. “The Emir, the administration, and the people of Qatar are proving themselves,” al-Saqqa remarked.
Everyone agrees that Qatar deserves to be crowned and that it can show the rest of the world that we Arabs and Muslims are capable of siding with superpowers.
Shahd Salouha, 23, was watching the World Cup’s opening events very closely.
“I love football so much that if the electricity goes out at home, I listen to the games on the radio. In order to avoid missing matches, I occasionally search for a location outside the house, she admitted.
Salouha claims that Brazil is her favorite national team, but she also supports Spain and Germany.
“I’ve been following the World Cup preparations for a full year, and everything I’ve seen so far is quite impressive. The preparations, stadiums, and museums are fantastic,” she added.
“As Arabs, this is a source of pride for us all, and it makes us feel proud that this is an Arab and Muslim country with such wonderful potential.”
Salouha acknowledged Qatar’s assistance in the Gaza Strip and expressed her gratitude for it.
Since it is well known that Qatar is one of the nations that supports Gaza the most, it is a great nation in both word and deed.