DOHA: A huge crowd of people of various nationalities turned up with loud chatting and clappings, to watch the first match of the World Cup, at Souq Waqif in which the host and five times champions Brazil hosted Croatia.
“There is nothing so much unifying in this world as football,” said Ahmed Abdullah, a Qatari, among the crowd. “Not anywhere would you find all nationalities united and happy like they are here today.”
The crowd, mostly supporting Brazil, briefly fell silent in the 11th minute, shocked when Croatia got a goal from a fault of a Brazilian defender.
Marcelo Viela da Silva poked the ball into his own net as he tried to clear it away from the danger zone. The mood, however, returned to celebration in the 29th minute when Neymar de Silva Desantos equalised.
“This is what we have been waiting for,” said Omar Al Ali, another Qatari. “Those minutes of Croatia leading have been so painful for our team [Brazil] which is the favourite to win the Cup.”
People were glued to a big screen showing the match, blocking most roads leading to major restaurants at the souq while families struggled to break up the crowd for easy passage.
Police regularly kept on asking spectators, mostly bachelors, to leave way for passers-by. Due to the crowds, traffic leading to the souq moved on a snail’s pace.
The souq was presumably the only place where the match could be watched for free.
Many football fans have been posting complaints on social media about higher charges by TV channels for watching the matches live.
World Cup broadcast rights have been given to Qatar-based beIN Sports, which is part of Al Jazeera network.
Those who want to watch action from Brazil in the comfort of their homes have to subscribe to beIN via Ooredoo by calling 111.
People without Internet connections in their homes have to start with buying the Ooredoo Internet and Mozaic services. A 10Mbps for TV and broad band is QR350, for 50Mbps QR550 and 100Mbps is QR700. The subscriber would then be required to pay QR80 (this increased from QR50) each month to watch the matches and the minimum one can subscribe is three months which means an additional QR240 from each of the earlier mentioned packages. Even though the World Cup finals are to be completed in just one month, a subscriber to the sports channels is supposed to pay at least three months subscriptions.
One social media enthusiast said that the high prices for watching the matches imposed by BeIN is encouraging piracy as many football fans who can’t afford the cost would seek alternatives.
Another football fan on social media said that by overcharging the matches BeIN was being unfair even to its old clients who for so long have been subscribed to their services.
BeIN is also criticised for fleecing football fans despite that it would have channeled some of its revenues from advertisements.
“If more fans are not restricted with the fees and could watch the matches, then more companies would advertise and BeIN would reap a lot of profits in the tournament,” said another fan.
Even those who are not going to watch the matches from their homes have to pay a lot of money at different venues to watch the matches. Most cafés and hotels across the country are charging QR60 to QR80 for a single match, it has been learnt.
The venues that would be showing the matches for a price include La Cigale Qatar, The Gaming Lounge, Oryx Rotana Doha, Four Seasons Doha, Kempinski Residences and Suites, Ezdan hotels, Hilton Hotel, Intercontinental Hotel Doha, St Regis Doha, Holiday Villa Hotel and Residence.