World Cup: ‘Worst experience’, say fans frustrated by Qatar’s organisation of tournament

Fans leaving Lusail Stadium after the World Cup Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. The Saudis' shock win is among many surprising results so far. PHOTO: AFP

DOHA – The Qatar World Cup has delivered some memorable moments after just four days of action, but the experience off the pitch has been unforgettable for some visitors – albeit for the wrong reasons.

A number of fans have been left frustrated by the host’s organisation of the tournament, citing logistical and other issues with one supporter labelling it as “total disorganisation”.

Those who spoke to The Straits Times have experienced difficulties getting around and into venues and have been annoyed by mixed messages from “clueless” and rigid stadium security marshals, which have even resulted in some fans missing some of the action on the pitch.

Iranian supporter Shahin Ranjbarzacandi, who has attended two World Cups in France in 1998 and Germany in 2006, was irate when he spoke to ST before his team’s 6-2 defeat by England on Monday. The 32-year-old said: “The stay, in my opinion, has been one of the worst experiences at the World Cup.

“It’s total disorganisation here. The people who are meant to help individuals and guide visitors are all clueless and lacking knowledge of the whole event and the infrastructure.”

Another fan, who was kitted out in a Mexico jersey and gave his name only as Jose, said he attended the World Cup in Russia four years ago and had a much smoother experience getting around the various cities and game venues. “Because Qatar and (its capital) Doha are much smaller, I thought there would not be problems like this,” said the 42-year-old, who also attended the England-Iran game.

Teething issues for Qatar were expected as this is the first time football’s showpiece event has been staged in the Middle East, but this did not make the experience any less exasperating for visitors.

This reporter also had first-hand experience of this at the England game. At the Khalifa International Stadium, I was directed to an entrance gate for media, only to be denied entry by the marshal who said it was strictly for “workforce” only.

I was eventually directed to another gate with no explanation except a gruff “rule change”.

I was not the only one vexed that day.

Footage later emerged on social media of England fans outside the stadium after finding their e-tickets had vanished from the Fifa app on their phones. It was reported some fans had tried to gain entry for up to two hours before kick-off, but were still left stranded at the turnstiles as their team began their match.

A day earlier, at the Al Bayt Stadium where the hosts took on Ecuador in the tournament opener, even VIPs were not spared.

A group of officials and football luminaries including Javier Mascherano, Didier Drogba and Fabio Capello were stranded for almost 1½ hours waiting for transport to take them back to their accommodation.

It was a similar situation for members of the local and international press, including ST, who were left standing in cold and windy conditions outdoors for almost an hour after the game waiting for transportation back to the Main Media Centre some 42km away.

That same evening, there were chaotic scenes at the Al Bidda Fan Park in Doha before kick-off. Over double of the venue’s capacity of 40,000 people tried to enter the park, forcing the local authorities to intervene. The police took about 45 minutes to clear the excess fans from the area.

One fan, carrying a four-year-old child, told Reuters the situation was “dangerous” and that the organisers had “let too many people in”.

BBC also reported that some fans had complained about their accommodation at the fan villages, as they had paid about US$200 (S$277) a night, only to be put up in tents made of thick plastic which did not have air-conditioning.

After spending around US$200 billion on the World Cup, the host nation is eager to impress and deliver a top-notch tournament experience. While the presence of the army of officials, marshals and security personnel on the ground may give the impression of order and efficiency, fans will be hoping that Qatar will be able to iron out their logistical and communication issues soon.

Track every Qatar 2022 World Cup match here.

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