Deutsche Welle reporter Arunava Chaudhuri has been watching the soccer in Qatar for a week now. In between matches, he's managed to soak in the atmosphere and gather some first impressions.
The football during the first week has been pretty exciting
I arrived in the Qatari capital Doha last Thursday. After a week, my impressions of the city and the country are positive and negative. First of all, I was surprised - I had expected the city to be more advanced, but in reality life seems to be slower than in other cities of the Gulf region.
As soon as I landed at Doha International Airport, I realized this wasn’t simply a smaller version of Dubai – Qatar's capital is simply not as developed but the authorities are doing their best to catch up. The whole country is one major construction site. Doha is growing in all possible directions, even into the sea with a new international airport coming-up on regained land.
Arriving at the main Khalifa Stadium and the Aspire Zone, you realize what an impressive sports complex was already built here for the 2006 Asian Games.
Arunava Chaudhuri is blogging for Deutsche Welle from Qatar
Locals don't seem to follow traffic rules
But traffic is still a major issue, with roads on workdays often choked. Driving is a challenge as many locals do not seem to follow any traffic rules, and then there are the cars damaged after accidents and simply left abandoned at the roadside. I am not sure why but the joke has it that locals can buy a brand new car in the morning and crash it in the evening, only to get up the next day and buy a new one. The price of gas is really low at 0.15 euros per liter, which is certainly one reason why most people drive heavy SUVs instead of more eco-friendly vehicles.
A mass public transport system is really the need of the hour and metro and rail services are currently in the pipeline. In a sense, the country desperately needed to get the 2022 FIFA World Cup so its overall infrastructure would get a boost.
Though Qatar is working to develop itself as a global sports and business center, in certain regards it remains a different world altogether, with alcohol not being freely available for instance.
One of the safest countries on the planet
Security isn't an issue here as Qatar is one of the safest countries on the planet. You do not often see police, but everyone tells you that if you have problems or create trouble the police will be there in 20 seconds.
There is a huge amount of immigrants, especially from South Asia, and if you speak Hindi or Malayalam you won’t have any problems getting around.
In one of the country’s biggest shopping malls, the Villagio Doha, there is an ice skating rink where the Qatar Raiders ice hockey team is based. Every day, you can see kids training there, and on weekends the professional matches are played.
Khalifa Sports City was built for the 2006 Asian Games
Interesting matches across the groups
The first round of matches is over in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and what is evident so far is the lack of fans at the stadiums. Only the local Arab sides have drawn large crowds so far besides the Indian team in their match against Australia – this is one aspect the 2022 World Cup organizers will have to look into.
Qatar wants to become an international sports and business center
As to the football, I have seen many interesting matches across the four groups, but the real surprise was Group B where title contenders Japan were held to a one-all draw by Jordan, while Syria upset Saudi Arabia. Hosts Qatar have had mixed results losing their opener 0-2 against Uzbekistan, but then winning 2-0 against China.
It is too early to say who will be the champions in the end, but pre-tournament favorites Australia and South Korea in Group C certainly still look good. South Korea had to fight it out against Bahrain but excelled at their usual passing game, while Australia did not face too many problems against minnows India.
Finally, there is the cool weather. No I am not joking! Over the past few days, night time temperatures have gone down considerably, with the cool wind out of the desert forcing us to wear jackets and sweaters to watch the evening matches.
Author: Arunava Chaudhuri (Doha)
Editor: Anne Thomas