Fans voice their frustration following the Lusail Super Cup event.
Nearly 80,000 thousand fans flocked to the grand Lusail Stadium tin Qatar on Friday o witness the spectacular opening of the last of eight World Cup stadiums, many of whom carried flags to support Al Hilal SFC or Zamalek for the cup match.
Qatar’s ‘jewel in the desert,’ also the largest stadium in the country, has the capacity to welcome 80,000 fans and is renowned for its spectacular facilities designed to woo anyone in its presence. For that reason, among many, the venue has been chosen to host the much-awaited World Cup final on December 18, coinciding with Qatar National Day.
After years of waiting, exactly 77,575 spectators got to witness the stadium in all its glory during its opening ceremony for the Lusail Super Cup showdown between Al Hilal and Zamalek, which saw Saudi Al Hilal lifting the trophy.
Legendary Egyptian superstar Amr Diab also made his debut at the stadium, performing his very own concert prior to kick off.
But with such crowds came great responsibility—one that was questioned by many due to ‘never-ending’ issues faced by fans during the match.
Long walks, lack of hydration options
Given the mass number of spectators attending, the organising committee allocated various parking lots around the stadium to accommodate fans opting to drive to the new venue.
While hundreds of busses were on hand to transport fans, many said some parking lots did not offer shuttle services to transfer the masses. One person told Doha News he and his family of 5 had to walk in 35-degree weather for over 45 minutes to reach the stadium.
“I had to carry my young son because he was tired from walking and was so dehydrated. There was no water at all, the volunteers kept saying ‘I don’t know’ every time I asked how far we have left,” Mohammed, a father of three, said.
“My wife almost fainted. It was a very bad experience for all of us.”
Mohammed was not the only one struggling to find help. Many fans have taken to social media to express their frustration over what they called ‘lack of organisation,’ with several claiming that the match did not have enough volunteers to aid with the huge number of fans that flocked to the stadium.
“Many of them were clueless, but I don’t think it is their fault, you know. I would say just lack of proper training, almost like they were rushed before they were ready or had enough knowledge of the stadium,” a fan said.
“I spent 20 minutes looking for the female bathroom. For some reason, no one knew where it was. Everyone gave the wrong directions. It was so tiring and frustrating,” another one added.
However, lack of help was not the main concern.
Once fans reached the stadium, many found themselves unable to get their hands on something as simple as water. According to several people, vendors either ran out of cold water or did not have any water by the time people rushed to drink after walking for over 30 minutes.
One father said that he spent 20 minutes trying to find a bottle of water for his 5-year-old daughter after security took her bottle at the gate. Per the stadium’s rules, no liquid is allowed inside. However, when Majda’s father gave away her water to enter, he did not know he’d be struggling to find a bottle of water 30 minutes into the match.
Luckily for Majda, a volunteer noticed her crying and gave her his own personal water that was unopened. It was his last one, the father told Doha News.
“I will forever be grateful for that young man because I can’t imagine what I would’ve done if he didn’t help. But not everyone is as lucky as I am. What will we do during the World Cup? I don’t want to even go anymore,” he said.
Hussain Al Ashaq, a prominent Qatari influencer, said on his Snapchat story that he could not find any water or cold beverages after the first half of the game.
“There’s no water, no Pepsi, no food. Everyone is struggling to try to find anything to eat or drink,” he said, showing hundreds of people rushing to get out of the stadium not even halfway through the game.
Flawed systems: is it ready for the World Cup?
With a record high of 77,575 spectators, the event marked the biggest such event in Qatar’s footballing history. For a country that is set to host the world’s largest football event of all time in less than 70 days, Lusail’s opening was nothing short of a challenge.
However, despite the grand opening and the spectacular concert, many found themselves unable to enjoy their experience due to the high humidity level inside the stadium, with fans pointing to a lack of air conditioning.
“I was just really enjoying my time, but it was so hot inside. After hours of waiting in the heat, I expected to at least relax when I enter, but I was sweating like crazy and everyone was fanning themselves with either papers or flags,” one fan told Doha News.
World Cup song reveal goes wrong
During half-time, and as a grand surprise for the thousands of attendees, organising authorities unveiled the Arabic version of the latest World Cup song“Arhbo” – the local term word for “welcome”.
However, the sound system appeared to have failed during the first half of the unveiling, raising several eyebrows on whether the country is actually ready to kick off the opening of the mega-event soon.
The sound, many claimed, was muffled during the first part of the song, leaving those inside the stadium unable to hear the track. Minutes into the performance, the sound suddenly switched on to allow the three artists on stage to continue with the song.
Calls for better organisation
Following the crowning of Al Hilal as winners of the match, thousands of people began exiting the venue in a bid to head home – a challenge of crowd management for any organiser.
One fan who spoke to Doha News said it took more than two hours and a half to reach the local metro station alone, noting there were no special lines to assist families.
Speaking on his Snapchat, the Qatari influencer said some of the long queues were the result of mandatory Ehteraz checks. However, he said, the application was checked a number of times before entering the stadium, making it an inconvenience for people to wait hours to check the status yet again before entering the metro.
Due to crowds, elderly attendees and those with physical challenges say they found it hard to find accessible pathways leading up to the metro, forcing them to take the stairs or wait in line despite their health.
Trial and error
The event was designed to serve as a litmus for the upcoming World Cup, which will see more than 1.2 million visitors from around the world flock to the Gulf state for the biggest sporting event on the globe.
With all the comments and concerns from the fans, Qatar now has the chance to learn from its mistakes to ensure a smooth event in November.
In a statement sent to Doha News, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said the event provided invaluable experience for Qatar.
“As a test event, the Super Cup was designed to identify any operational issues and learn lessons that may be applied to help Qatar deliver a seamless experience for all at the FIFA World Cup 2022,” the statement read.
“Every team involved in the event’s organisation gained invaluable experience they will carry into this year’s tournament.
“We would like to thank everyone who attended the Super Cup – they all contributed to Qatar’s successful hosting of this year’s FIFA World Cup, the first in the Middle East and Arab World,” the statement added.