“This shows all Arabs that there should be no limits to their dreams. Qatar had this dream 12 years ago, and today its a reality. We are no different, if we want to do something, we are capable.”
This Sunday will mark a week since the kickoff the world’s largest football tournament, in none other than Doha, Qatar.
The country has been under international scrutiny since it was won the bid back in 2010. No country is free of scrutiny, but much of the criticism seems to come out of pure European racism; one that deems Arabs as regressive and incapable of hosting the World Cup.
However, Qatar is not alone in fighting this. Many have said that they have not seen the Arab world united as they have in the past week; from celebrating Saudi Arabia’s historic win against Argentina, to fighting back against the unprecedented criticism of Doha.
In light of this unity, Doha News spoke to Arab fans at the Hayya Fanzone to find out the answer to a simple question: What does it mean for you as an Arab to see Qatar host the World Cup?
Abdullah Al-Shami, 14, Palestine
Being young and having his whole life in Qatar, for Abdullah Al-Shami it felt like his childhood was leading up to this month. However, despite his young age, he also felt that it all happened so fast and at once.
“Seeing the World Cup come to life is crazy, especially how it became big and real very fast,” Abdullah said.
As an Arab kid, Al-Shami says it meant a lot for him to see the World Cup in an Arab country.
“Its very close to home and it feels nice that the biggest sporting event in the world is happening in an Arab country, I’m very proud of Qatar.”
This edition of the World Cup was made extra special by the Palestinian flags that have flown high in the skies since the beginning of the tournament. That’s why he says he felt comfortable and excited to be representing Palestine, and is showcasing his identity to the visitors from around the world.
His message to fellow Arabs is simple.
“Do not be afraid to embrace your nationalities, raise your flags, and be proud of your countries. I’m from Palestine and I wanna show it and embrace it, seeing other people do it makes me happier and easier for me to do this, ” he urged.
Ali, Saif, and Hamza, representing the Levant
Hamza Rjeed – a Jordanian DJ who arrived in Doha just yesterday – recalls how he was stunned by the difference he saw when he last visited in 2021, despite him last coming in 2018 prior to that.
He told us that seeing an Arab country host the World Cup “proves that we are not what people say about us; we have everything, we are developed – not the way the West sees us. All of us Arabs are proud of Qatar what and it has done; it shows the rest of the world that we’re not what they see on the news.”
His friend, Saif Aldamen – one of the Hayya Fanzone’s official DJs – told us he made sure to showcase how Arab the World Cup is with the music he chooses. In fact, a video of his set went viral recently as people sang and danced to the iconic Palestinian song, ‘Ana Dammi Falasteeni’.
Similarly, he played it yesterday as members of his audience from all nationalities raised their Palestinian flags, and people took to the floor to dance Dabke.
He currently resides in Kuwait, but lived here for around three years in the past.
“Qatar has really evolved, its a huge come up, I’ve been here back in 2012 and when I came back in 2021 it was a different country. I haven’t seen anything like that. They did a great job, and they make us so proud.”
Like his friend, Aldamen believes that the hsot nation has helped break stereotypes about Arabs and the region in general.
“They proved that Arabs are not only as the propaganda goes as petrol money heads we are up to date with the world and we’re doing really well while sticking with our Arab culture”
He also finds the country’s firm stance and embracing of its identity admirable.
“I feel very proud of how they’ve not let go of their values and stood firm when it comes to culture because anywhere else they’d do the same to us.”
Ali Ahmad, a Qatar resident and a close friend of the two, had one reminder for everyone.
“Its very important that the World Cup is here because it does not belong to the Europeans. It’s called the World Cup for a reason,” said Ahmad.
“Doha is not just any gulf country, it wore the dress of the tournament, and made us proud, as residents here we consider Qatar our second country and its something that makes us proud as Arabs,” he added.
Ahmad* is filled with pride, as he told Doha News that he never expected that a Middle Eastern, let alone GCC country, would host this event. He never thought he’d even be able to witness the World Cup live.
“It came to a place that I wasn’t expecting,” Ahmad said.
Despite the criticism from Western media, Ahmad does not believe it reflects the thoughts of the world.
“Qatar has perfected the art of bridging the gap between the east and the west. This event is changing how people perceive the Middle East.
“This shows all Arabs that there should be no limits to their dreams. Qatar had this dream 12 years ago, and today its a reality. We are no different, if we want to do something, we are capable. Nothing is impossible.”
He’s rooting for all teams during the tournament. “I like to live the party, and so I’m not a loser at the end!”
He urges fellow Arabs to embrace themselves and be good ambassadors. “We have the same language, there are no boundaries, the borders are just lines on a map and do not reflect us.”
He told Doha News that he hopes to see even more tournaments after the World Cup.
“I was just telling my friends, I was so excited for the Mondial – I don’t know what I’ll do after it ends!”