Qatar start their Asian Cup title defence in model with a 3-0 win over Lebanon in entrance of a passionate dwelling crowd.
Lusail, Qatar – Just a little over a yr since capturing the world’s consideration in a memorable World Cup closing, Qatar’s Lusail Stadium returned to the limelight because it hosted the opening match of the AFC Asian Cup 2023.
The regional event might not have the identical ring to it because the World Cup, the gamers on the pitch might not evoke the identical reactions as a sure Lionel Messi or a Kylian Mbappe, however there was no lack of ardour as a significant worldwide soccer event returned to the nation on Friday night time.
A grand opening ceremony set the tone within the center, a hoop of vibrant fireworks surrounded the golden mesh-like construction of the nation’s largest soccer venue and the house workforce got here out of the opening match with a snug win over regional rivals Lebanon.
“It feels similar to the World Cup to us,” Abdullah Sulaiti, an overjoyed Qatar fan, instructed Al Jazeera after Qatar’s 3-0 win within the Group A fixture that attracted greater than 82,000 followers to the stadium.
“I’ve heard individuals say the ‘vibes’ should not the identical because the World Cup however they should step inside a stadium to really feel the electrical ambiance.”
Qatari followers have a good time a snug victory [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Certainly, earlier than kickoff and up till the tip of the primary half, followers of each groups have been making themselves heard with their singing and flag-waving. Nevertheless, as quickly as Qatar’s lead doubled 11 minutes into the second half, a lot of the crowd started making a beeline for the exit.
“We all know our workforce has three factors within the bag and we’ll again to help them within the subsequent match,” Sara al-Malki, who watched the match along with her three youngsters, stated whereas making her strategy to the exit.
A successful begin for the Al Annabi (the Maroons) delighted the house followers who had been determined for his or her workforce to point out a glimpse of their title-winning run in 2019.
For Lebanon, and their followers who turned up of their 1000’s, it was a disappointing begin to the event and one which leaves them clinging on to the hope that they’ll flip issues round of their subsequent two group video games.
“I’m not stunned on the outcome however maybe the margin of it,” Abdul Rehman Fidawi instructed Al Jazeera after the match.
“A few of these gamers work a day job after which put in a shift on the pitch for the workforce, so it’s not truthful to guage them towards a workforce that has a greater high quality of gamers and services,” he stated.
Fidawi stated it didn’t shock him to see a big turnout of Lebanese supporters.
“We might not have among the best groups however we actually have an enormous presence in Qatar,” he added with a smile.
There was no lack of help for Palestine both.
It started as 1000’s of followers thronged the general public transport, the streets main as much as the stadium and the venue itself in Palestinian colors.
Be it the black and white keffiyeh, a big flag draped throughout their backs, or smaller ones of their arms, soccer followers from throughout the area carried solidarity with the war-struck individuals of Palestine into the stadium.
“It means loads to us when individuals placed on such shows, particularly the section within the opening ceremony the place acknowledged our id – it confirmed the world that the Palestinians should not alone,” Dia Ebwini, a Qatar-based Palestinian, stated.
Qatar’s captain Hassan al-Haydos, who was meant to take the oath because the consultant of the host nation, handed on the honour to his Palestinian counterpart in a transfer that was welcomed by applause and chants in help of Palestine.
With the Palestinian workforce set to open their marketing campaign in two day’s time towards Iran, a much bigger show of solidarity and present of feelings should unfold on the Training Metropolis Stadium.
Till then, Qatar and its followers will indulge in a second that has been a yr within the making – a win on the nation’s iconic venue.