From our Special Envoy in Doha,
He was there, before our eyes. We have seen it without seeing it. Too busy cursing the 15 degree air conditioning on our first bus ride in Doha, the image of perfectly aligned caravans will remain subliminal for a time. Until hearing about the Al Khor camp and its airs of fyre festival. Tents on gravel with extra dirty water sold as hotel rooms, talk about an emotional lift. Closer to the center of Doha, Caravan City delivers on its modest promises. It’s all in the name. A camp of perfectly aligned trailers, wide and endless sandy paths where you come across more tank trucks filled with drinking water and tuk-tuks than supporters.
“Do you want to go up? I’ll take you to the restaurant area. » In this not too low-carbon country that is qatar, it is still considered profitable to use a motor to travel 400 meters. So we let ourselves be teleported. In front of us, tables. On the side, food trucks for all tastes, lounge areas sheltered from the scorching sun, and of course, hookahs. Even further, a giant screen and beanbags for sunburn lovers.
Poufs, blazing sun and dromedary
It’s 2 p.m. Ahead of Morocco-Croatia, a man struggles to build a more or less elaborate beanbag shelter. Hats off to the artist, we will be satisfied with a melanoma. The experience is not unpleasant, provided you move away from the puking of saturated comments that give birth to the speakers set to EHPAD mode. And as long as we accept to suffer the evenings of victory of the English, more noisy sober than dead drunk, we would be almost not badly there, in Caravan City. Almost.
After a disappointing second half and an unmentionable selfie with a poor dromedary tied up in the area of the deserted football pitches, it’s time to turn around. On the horizon, a couple wanders, the step heavy. Miguel and Ilana are Argentinian, and depressed about defeat against Saudi Arabia. They landed 24 hours ago, for a three-day stay. Not even enough to change time zones. “We had it for 200 euros, we had booked seven months ago. It conforms to what was sold to us, except for the microwave and the kettle that we were promised. But the toilets, the beds, all that, it’s clean. “There is always a but somewhere.
“The only thing we didn’t like too much, and this is something that was not made clear to us at the time of booking, is that we were asked for a deposit of 500 Qatari ryals (approximately 140 euros) by card which would only be returned to us 15 days after check-out. For me, it’s money that we won’t see again. But what do you want, we weren’t going to sleep on the street. Maradona was saying a lot of bullshit, but he was right that the World Cup shouldn’t be held in such a country. »
Supporter of Morocco, Aziz is not entirely in agreement. “Honestly, it’s great. You can meet a lot of people here, and it’s a joy for us who are from the Arab world to be able to meet up with the Saudis, the Qataris and the Tunisians. For comfort, it’s fine. But anyway, we don’t spend much time here. It’s mostly for sleeping. »
The “fan leaders” spoiled by Qatar
Half an hour by metro from the fan village, Michel Lorriaux is also sleeping. But better. Because France spanked Australia. But also because he is one of the 50 leading French fans invited to Doha – only 42 came – by the Qatar organizing committee. A status that gives access to certain advantages such as an all-expenses-paid trip, including top-of-the-range accommodation. “Five of us share an apartment, with three bedrooms, in a beautiful building which is not a hotel but still has one with a reception service in case of problems. This was handy when we had to duplicate our keys on arrival. And it’s not far from Khalifa stadium. A little bonus that makes me happy: Michel and his little friends were received at the Doha embassy on Monday to celebrate with great fanfare the arrival of the two tricolor supporters who cycled France-Qatar.
The only exception is that current expenses remain the responsibility of the supporters. And again, a daily check for 65 euros was provided by the host country for its fan leaders. Journalists had to come and poke their noses into matters that were none of their business – the very principle of the profession – for the organization to backpedal. “It’s a bit of a shame, breathes Michel, especially since next to the plane tickets, the places we had for the opening match and the accommodation, these sums were derisory. But instead, we’re going to have vouchers for the fan festival. »
Life is pretty sweet for fan leaders. The Brazilian Raquel Freestyle, more than a million subscribers on Instagram, gives us an appointment at the reception of the Westin hotel, neither more nor less than the one where the Seleção has taken up residence. In a few minutes, she will go to a room in the 36-star building to join the fan leaders of all the countries of the 2022 World Cup. “For me, it’s a dream. I come from the suburbs of São Paulo, life has not always been easy. I would never have hoped to be able to experience another World Cup than that of 2014. So I’m taking full advantage. Doha is a beautiful city, but I have a soft spot for The Pearl [l’archipel d’îles artificielles de la ville] and the Souq. »
No quid pro quo, really?
Officially, this dream is unrequited. “There is a tacit agreement, we are not going to speak ill of someone who invited us, it’s common sense”, another fan leader tells us off.
“I think their interest in all this, theorizes Raquel, is our exposure on the networks. I know that I was chosen because I met certain criteria. Obviously, I play football, but I am also a woman, and there is this desire to convey a certain openness. There is a logic, but no direct instruction. We are free. »
Small oddity all the same. Both our Frenchman and his Brazilian counterpart gave us the same speech about the controversy over the “one love” armband, without us throwing them on the subject, which was not even on our list of questions. . In broad outline “when you visit a country, you have to adapt to its customs and respect them. I think banning the armband was a good decision. It’s about football, not politics. Without evidence, this will remain a coincidence. But it’s hard not to think of the lyrics of a great French philosopherwhich urges never to bite the hand that feeds you.