Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia… In Qatar, the celebration of Arab football

In Qatar, the Arab supporters are the kings of the atmosphere. Since the start of the Mondial-2022, they have allowed the most heated atmospheres of the tournament while the scenes of fraternization are multiplying. Report in the collective jubilation in Doha.

How long the minutes must have seemed to Belgium! During their second group match against Morocco, Kevin De Bruyne’s teammates found themselves trapped in an incandescent atmosphere. Each of their ball prizes inevitably resulted in continuous whistles, while each opportunity for the Atlas Lions made the Al-Thumama stadium in Doha roar with happiness on Sunday 27 November.

A constant in this Mondial-2022. The supporters of the qualified Arab countries – Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia – came in large numbers for this World Cup organized in Qatar, the first in history to take place in the Arab world. From the spans of the stadiums to the souk Waqif in the city center, the supporters savor the event.

“The atmosphere is incredible, really extraordinary. We love the way Qatar organized this World Cup. Everything is easy to access”, notes Amir, crossed at the end of the match Belgium – Morocco. “It’s great, but it’s still expensive,” shouted another supporter before continuing to celebrate the victory of the Atlas Lions.

Amir, originally from Rabat, traveled by car from Dubai, where he studies, to experience the Morocco World Cup.

“We are noisier than the Europeans,” he smiles, still under the emotion of the victory of the Atlas Lions. “We feel at home here. Besides, quite a few of us live here or in Saudi Arabia or the Emirates.”

Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia… In Qatar, the celebration of Arab football

And the loud encouragement pays off. The Arab teams have the impression of playing at home: Saudi Arabia managed the feat of overthrowing Messi’s Argentina (2-1) and can claim a historic place in the round of 16. Morocco defeated the Belgians, third in the last world, and can also claim to be among the 16 best of the edition. And if, for the moment, Tunisia remains below in terms of sports performance, its supporters continue to believe in it, before the third decisive match against France.

“It fraternizes everywhere”

“I love the atmosphere. The people are welcoming, smiling. Everything is positive. I was expecting a little of all that but not to this extent”, savors Adil, 25 years old. “It fraternizes everywhere. Especially the Saudis. They are everywhere. Every time I take the metro, they talk to me.”

“It’s not just between the Arabs. It’s everyone’s football party. The Argentines and Mexicans are also present,” notes the computer engineer in Paris.

Other Arab countries, not qualified, invite themselves. Like Algeria whose flag is well represented in the crowd. And the supporters sometimes encourage several teams. Adil is not content to encourage Morocco. He also came to encourage the French team, even if they are playing their third match against a North African team.

“Go! Come! Everyone at Souk Waqif! It’s going to be a party until the end of the night”, enjoins another Moroccan supporter, drunk with the joy of victory.

Because, between matches, if there is a place that brings supporters together in the spirit of communion, it is the “standing market”, the literal translation of souk Waqif, where fans stroll. In this centuries-old center of the city of Doha, many come to enjoy a meal or a tea on the terrace. Some smoke a hookah while watching passers-by. Occasionally, a group of supporters launch a song to amicably provoke another nationality in the midst of incense.

“TUN-is, TUN-is, TUN-Is”, we hear near the golden sculpture of the “Thumb” in the center of the market. “Ronaldo! Ronaldo!” Responds from the Portuguese, on the way to the match against Uruguay.

An Arab friendship flag in the Waqif market.
An Arab friendship flag in the Waqif market. ©Romain Houeix, France 24

The Arab Cup organized in Qatar in December 2021 had already given rise to beautiful scenes of friendship between supporters. Here too, demonstrations of Arab fraternity are not lacking. Here, a Saudi has stitched together the flags of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Morocco.

There, two teenagers strolling together. Mohamed is Qatari. He wears his flag like a cape while raising the flag of Saudi Arabia high and proud. His friend of the same age, Saudi, opted for the opposite combination. The two children have fun dancing and are only too happy when someone is interested in them for a photo, a selfie or an interview:

“It’s a pride to have the World Cup in my country. We show that all Arabs are brothers. It’s the celebration of Arab football,” he shouts, while his friend nods vigorously. “We are for all Arabs. When Morocco won, I had an Atlas Lions flag.”

The two friends proudly display their flags and their fraternity.
The two friends proudly display their flags and their fraternity. ©Romain Houeix, AFP

>> To read also: “We are now one of the greats”: in Qatar, the pride of organizing the world

The largest delegation is still that of the Saudis. It’s hard to walk around Doha without coming across at least one jersey or green scarf from the neighboring country.

“Proximity matters a lot. It’s easy to come,” explains one of their representatives, Mohannad, met with his suitcase in the souk. “And then we feel at home. We share the same language and the same culture.”

After five days and a bundle of good memories in his head, he is about to return home. He gladly says he is proud to have participated in this first World Cup organized in the Arab world.

“We want the same thing soon at home,” he smiles. Saudi Arabia applied jointly with Egypt and Greece in 2030. Response in 2024 during the 74e FIFA Congress.

The Saudis, star supporters of the 2022 World Cup.
The Saudis, star supporters of the 2022 World Cup. ©Romain Houeix, AFP


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