Al-Rayyan, Qatar – A gaggle of family and friends collect each day on the majlis in a constructing that’s strolling distance from their houses in Al-Rayyan, simply west of Doha.
It’s a convention that has been occurring for years and is a part of each day life right here in Qatar. A majlis is an space in a home or a separate constructing used for all kinds of gatherings, from each day lounging to extra vital occasions.
However now, with the World Cup on the town, it has taken on a unique theme: a soccer watch celebration.
The largely middle-aged and older attendees on the majlis had been there to observe Sunday’s opening match of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar v Ecuador.
In Qatar, they’ve been ready for this second for years. All throughout the nation, in majlis similar to this, Qataris tuned in to see themselves on the world stage.
Not that everybody was right here for the sport.
“Truthfully, I’m not into soccer,” stated Nasser Al Thani, who’s right here most days. “They’re all right here for the sport, however I’m right here for the opening ceremony.”
The opening ceremony, with its show of Qatari historical past, took the friends again to their childhood. One second, particularly, took them again when a video was proven of Qatar’s former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani taking part in soccer within the desert in what the friends estimated to be the early Nineteen Seventies.
“We used to play within the sands like this,” stated Al Thani. “Barefoot, toes bleeding. After I see these outdated photographs, it jogs my memory of the outdated days. Individuals had been easier and nicer then.”
Al Thani and the opposite friends reminisced about their journeys to the desert of their youth.
One among them, Mubarak al-Naeemi, used to play for the Qatari soccer groups Al-Rayyan and Al-Gharafa within the Nineteen Eighties. He stated that certainly one of his teammates on the time was Hassan Afif, the daddy of the present star of the Qatari group, Akram Afif.
“I’d play on the left wing; I used to be good, however Hassan may get the ball to anybody, wherever they had been on the sphere,” al-Naeemi informed Al Jazeera.
Distracted from the sport
Qatar conceded a purpose early, setting the sport’s tone.
So, as a substitute of losing their time by paying an excessive amount of consideration to what was a poor efficiency from the Qataris, the majlis friends returned to enthusiastic about the modifications they’ve seen within the final 20 years in Qatar, significantly for the reason that World Cup was awarded to the Gulf nation in 2010.
It’s well-known that Doha has modified quickly since then. However listening to the friends right here, who noticed that change, it’s clear how radically various things are.
“Take a look at these metro stations,” stated one of many friends, Sultan Johar. “4 flooring underground. It’s superb. We acquired the World Cup out of it, however even when we hadn’t, these modifications would have been sufficient. If you get off at every cease, you see one thing new.”
Al Thani factors out that the change has gone past the infrastructure and unfold to the individuals.
“Let’s be sincere, we didn’t have a robust sense of nationalism or nationwide id earlier than,” stated Al Thani. “The World Cup, this undertaking, has helped construct this. Now you even hear the opposite Arabs who’ve been raised right here, they converse with a Qatari accent. They’ve began to really feel that satisfaction in residing in Qatar.”
However that doesn’t imply that this group welcomes all of the modifications.
They recalled that the Qatar of their childhood and adolescence was much less developed, however individuals had been hardier and will survive on their very own.
And never simply that, the climate was cooler, and rainfall was nonetheless uncommon however extra plentiful than at this time, they stated.
Now, as many World Cup friends have discovered, the temperatures are hotter than they was once.
“It’s local weather change, and it makes us fear in regards to the future,” stated Johar. “We by no means understood issues like conservation or defending the atmosphere. Now we go on journeys to the desert and decide up the litter. We get it now however take a look at the timber. They’ve disappeared in some areas due to the shortage of rainfall. And the animals we used to hunt, it’s important to go deep into the desert to seek out them now.”
On the tv, Qatar conceded a second after which confirmed little within the second half, with the sport finally ending 2-0 for Ecuador.
Many of the friends on the majlis had left lengthy earlier than the tip of the video games, and the jokes had been already rolling into everybody’s telephones, commiserating over the loss.
On the finish of the day, the outcome was not too vital for the friends right here, however the symbolism of the arrival of such a major occasion to their doorstep was. And but, as soon as this event is over, the majlis will keep it up, and these buddies will nonetheless collect, questioning how far more they are going to see their nation change within the years to come back.