The 2011 AFC Asian Cup has kicked off in Qatar. The capital Doha has been decorated in the tournament colors and draped in the flags of the participating nations.
Qatar's national soccer team played Uzbekistan on the opening night
Walking through Qatar, one can feel that the tournament's importance has grown for the country's people, since they were awarded 2022 FIFA World Cup. The signage of the bidding campaign is still visible across the country.
The beautiful Khalifa Stadium was full for the opening ceremony, which featured fireworks and entertainment. The hosts then took on Uzbekistan.
In general, ticket prices have been kept low, at five to 20 euros, to try and fill the stadiums for all the games. There are ticket sale counters in numerous shopping malls, which have been seeing brisk business with people deciding to take a day off to go watch some football.
Qatar is out to please
With bigger international media attention on the tiny Gulf state than it is used to, the tournament organizers have been doing whatever they can to please their foreign guests, who, whether they are from the football industry or the media, seem to like what they see.
A model of the Qatar University stadium that will be built for the 2022 football world cup
Italian Nicola Antognetti is in the football business and has been in Qatar six times already. "It’s not changing as much as you would think – not as much as Dubai – but I think they are just taking things a bit more slowly, with more strategy behind. It's a great place."
Australian journalist Scott Macintyre thinks that the country has already changed considerably in the 18 months since he was first here. "The landscape and the skyline are changing almost constantly and I’m sure there will be more positive signs in the build-up to 2022."
Author: Arunava Chaudhuri
Editor: Anne Thomas