The faces of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Vol.2 – People that colour the tournament
12 December 2022
When the whistle blew at the end of the match, the players and staff on the bench rushed out onto the pitch at once to embrace the players after the battle, and the supporters, who made up the majority of the 45,000 spectators who filled the stadium, gave a deafening cheer. This happened on December 10 at Al Thumama Stadium, south of Doha, when Morocco National Team defeated Portugal National Team 1-0 to advance to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time. Moroccan fans were still celebrating their victory outside the stadium and were jubilantly reciting their chants. And then, a phrase gets mixed in for no apparent reason. “Morocco, this way!”
This is a familiar phrase to the metro users during the tournament. At the metro stations that connect the match venues, station staff directs visitors using a large direction board with a pointing symbol and shouts, “Metro, this way!” And the mysterious chant was a Moroccan version of this phrase. According to local reports, the metro has increased the number of staff by over 5,000 in order to manage the transportation of spectators on a 21-hour (6AM-3AM) per day operating system for this tournament. The phrase, which appears to have been coined by one of the staff, slowly gained popularity throughout the competition and started to be used at all stations.
On the day of Japan National Team's match against Spain, at Sport City Station, the nearest station to the match venue, Khalifa International Stadium, several staff members were chanting “Metro, this way! Japan, this way! Spain, this way!” Passengers on their way from the station platform to the exit were seen smiling and capturing the joyful scene on video, swaying their bodies to the rhythm, and applauding when the “act” was over.
The unique verse, in which the word “metro” is followed by a slight pause, was recited not just by the Moroccan, but also by the Brazilian supporters. There were a lot of enthusiastic fans singing fight songs on the metro train headed to the quarterfinal match between Brazil and Croatia, and several large men were dancing and jumping around. And for no reasons, they shouted “Brazil, this way!” in between each time, followed by a joyful yell.
According to FIFA, a total of 2.45 million people watched the 48 group stage matches, surpassing the turnout for the same period in the 2018 tournament. Not only has the Metro carried an average of 700,000 passengers a day during this period, but it seems to have played a role in building the excitement of the matches. For the record, the largest number of tourists, through the group stage, came from Saudi Arabia (77,106), followed by India (56,893), the USA (35,235), the UK (30,719) and Mexico (25,533).
The tournament has been supported by a large number of people. Around 20,000 volunteers participated in this year's tournament, including 3,000 people from approximately 150 countries around the world. They play an essential role in various areas of the tournament, mainly as guides at each match venue, as well as the pre-kick-off ceremonies. Police officers also provide security at the training ground, where the players prepare for their matches.
The training facility of Al Sadd SC, where the Japan National Team were based, was also guarded 24 hours a day in two shifts, with 30 police on the perimeter and 12 inside the facility, including four female police officers. These police officers carried out their duties with a serious expression on their faces, but they congratulated with a smile when the Japanese team won their match and sent the media off by telling them, “Good luck!” before each match. The person in charge of the security on site told the press the day before Japan's crucial group stage match against Spain, in which their tournament life was on the line, “I hope you win, so that we can meet here again after the match.”
This particular officer has previously worked in the 2006 Asian Games, but this was the first time he was assigned to a team. He performed an Arabic “tea ritual” by offering sweet milk tea to the JFA staff after they finished their work for the day. When he was off duty, he brought his two football-playing sons and his daughter, who loves Japan, to the stadium to cheer on Japan. “As a fellow Asian, I was happy to see Japan win,” he said. He looked sad when he sent off the team, but said he was looking forward to seeing them again at next year's Asian Cup in Doha.
After eliminating Japan in the round of 16, Croatia faced Brazil, one of the favourites to win the tournament, in the quarterfinals, where they played through extra time and won on penalties. It was reminiscent of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, where the team survived a series of matches lasting more than 120 minutes to reach the final. Argentina also defeated the Netherlands on penalties, as they move one step closer to their first final appearance since finishing as runners-up at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Their ace, Lionel MESSI, is now given two more matches to play in his final World Cup. France defeated their long-time rivals England 2-1 to advance to the semi-finals in their attempt to defend the title.
And then there is the aforementioned Morocco. With an impressive performance against Portugal, they have kept their remarkable tournament run alive, as coach Walid REGRAGUI commented, “We delivered a performance that deserved to win. I think we are the ‘Rocky’ of this World Cup.”
On 14 December, Morocco will play the defending champions France in the semi-finals, while Croatia play Argentina on the day before. We'll see if the chant “Morocco, this way!” can be heard at the World Cup final, as the competition nears its conclusion.
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