Wed, 29 Nov 2023

Hardly surprising that with a ban on the sale of alcohol around the World Cup stadium, there were a lot of firsts.


A song by Duran Duran from 1986 - who would have thought holding a tambourine could be so cool? Or since the review prides itself on levels of culture ... an Alfred Hitchcock thriller from 1946 starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains. A perfume too. And it will take a lot of fragrance to mask such a stinky performance from the Qatar team against Ecuador. The 2-0 defeat left them with the ignominy of becoming the first host to lose an opening match in the 92-year history of the World Cup.

Happy Days

An American TV series from the 1970s ... OK we will stop right away. Enner Valencia's brace against Qatar not only catapulted them to a unique position but himself as well. The 33-year-old's feats on Day 1 extended his record goal tally for his country to 37. He also surpassed Agustin Delgado as Ecuador's leading marksman at World Cups. The duo were tied on three goals for their country. But Valencia stands supreme with five strikes.

Oh for an eye into the future

There was the standard industrial entertainment complex opening ceremony at the Al Bayt Stadium before the kick-off between Qatar and Ecuador. The Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman lent his imperious voice to the proceedings which included a turn from Jung Kook from the Korean group BTS. The rite of passage highlighted Qatari culture and heritage too. Shame that the Qatar team could not emulate such brio. No matter. Just the African champions Senegal up next and a star-packed Netherlands side. Though fireworks were lacking on the pitch, they did illuminate the night sky as disappointed partisans shuffled into the breezy Doha night.

Treasure trove

Gianni Infantino, the boss of the outfit that organises the World Cup, has been a gift of late. At the start of the month the Fifa supremo wrote to all 32 teams involved in the World Cup urging them to take the politics out of sport. And focus on the football. Then, just one day before the party began in Doha with the game between Qatar and Ecuador, Infantino decided it was the moment to contradict himself. He hit out at western hypocrisy and tendencies to criticise other governments about their mores and cultures. Having ushered the the beast back to the centre stage, Sunday night was no ordinary football match. It was loaded. And Qatar were duly a load of rubbish. "Perhaps the nerves got to us," said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez. "We really didn't start well."

We listen to Gigi

In the prelude to the game at the Al Bayt and ever the maverick, the review opted to live a slice of the life Infantino. We removed our gaze from the pile of social issues around the tournament and embraced Doha of a Sunday afternoon. We left our cosily compact wall-view hotel room in Doha and headed for the metro. Mingling with the throng, off we were sped on the glitzy new system to have a quick look around the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium - site of Wales's first match at a World Cup for 64 years - and drop in on the nearby Mall of Qatar. At 500,000 square metres, it is - so the marketing schtick oozes - designed to be more than a mall. "We are about moments of delight. Captivating attention on a stage designed to invoke excitement and with a performance troop trained to mesmerize." We're clearly not the only ones listening to Gigi.

Originally published on RFI

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