My younger son Franav invited us for the Fifa World Cup 2022 in Doha, Qatar. Post pandemic, both Vasu and I have had ups and downs with health issues, but Franav’s invitation was attractive and enticing, specially so as we had also witnessed several of the FIFA World Cup matches in St. Petersburg and Moscow in Russia in 2018 and had experienced the overwhelming welcome of the host nation wherever we went.
Both Vasu and I excitedly agreed to join the Qatar FIFA expedition, but before we could start our FiFA experience we would have to go through a different adventure in logistics and child care. We realised that we had committed to look after our 6 year old grandson Logan as his dad Priam our older son was also attending the FIFA World Cup series in Doha during the same time that we were asked to join. Mabel, Logan’s mom and Athena his 4 year old sister had already left for America for the Thanksgiving holidays, but Logan had to stay back because of school.
How could we resolve this? The only answer was to take Logan along with us. It was over the weekend so he wouldn’t miss any school. So our mini adventure started.
A few hours before our departure to Doha we receive a WhatsApp message from daughter Minerva from San Francisco on our family WhatsApp group. Don’t you require some documentation to take Logan out of the country specially as he is a child travelling without his parents ?
We were leaving in a few hours and we were not informed of any paperwork or protocol for taking our minor grandson out of the country. Priam promptly responded to Mini’s inquiry by sending us a letter of authorisation for Logan to leave for Doha with his grandparents with a consent form and copies of Logan’s parents’ passports.
Minerva rightly cautioned us, for at the immigration counter we were asked to produce the ‘Travel Consent Form’ signed by both Logan’s parents. Priam’s form duly filled up with the relevant information had arrived digitally just in the nick of time. Here was one lesson learned. When travelling with a minor kid, any law enforcement agency can ask for documentary proof that the child travelling with you has permission to do so from both the minor’s parents.
We boarded our Air India flight to Doha and arrived at Hamad International airport, an architectural wonder with tropical indoor gardens built under a roof which lets in natural sunlight. There were welcome signs all over, and immigration was facilitated through the Hayya cards which were our entry tickets to Doha and to attend the FIFA matches.
Day 1 Doha, Qatar
December 9, 2022
We took a taxi to the hotel. Met with Priam and Franav who were staying at the Radisson Blu hotel. The hotel was all decked up with posters of previous FIFA matches and FIFA legendary players.
We had dinner at the ‘Chingari’ the Indian restaurant at the Radisson which was also home to the Japanese team that performed impressively at the FIFA games.
Dinner was sumptuous, the kebabs, the fish tikkas and the prawns. Live music made it all the more enchanting. The ambience was exotic yet soothing.
December 10, 2022
We had tickets for the quarter finals match between Brazil versus Croatia. We could see fans at our breakfast table at the Adagio hotel dressed up in jerseys supporting either Croatia or Brazil. Everyone looked tense as they spoke animatedly about the match that was to take place.
We had a few hours to spend before the match, so Priam took us to the Villagio mall which was designed in Venetian style with gondola boat rides inside the mall. Lunch was at ‘Ocean’s Nest’ where we ordered a seafood platter besides other dishes and feasted on oysters, shrimp, calamari and fish. It was a gourmet’s delight.
Logan had a thrilling experience at the various games at ‘Gondolania’, an indoor theme park at ‘The Villagio’, while Vasu and I walked around to look at the marvel that was created for kids’ amusement and entertainment.
In the evening we witnessed the Croatia versus Brazil match with son Franav and Munawira. Franav had arranged a buggy from the taxi drop off area to the stadium. The match was held at the ‘Education City’ Stadium located in the heart of several university campuses. It has been described as a ‘Diamond in the Desert’ with its sparkling triangular patterns. It was a sight to behold, a combination of technology and environmentally safe facilities.
We joined the crowds walking to the Stadium all in celebratory mode, carrying the flags of the various countries they supported. The mood was festive with dancing, singing and blowing of trumpets all the way.
The match opened with the rolling of the gigantic FIFA WORLD CUP on wheels to the centre of the playing field and a spectacular fireworks display. The teams of both Croatia and Brazil sang their countries National Anthems with ardent fervour. How proud they looked playing for their country. The whole atmosphere was fraught with tension as the audience waited for the game to begin.
Croatia won 4-2 against Brazil in the FIFA Quarter Finals match in a penalty shoot out which led to Croatia’s success.
The same day Priam and Logan watched the match between Argentina and Netherlands at the Lusail stadium. It was Logan’s first FIFA match at 6 years and he has many more to go with God’s grace.
December 10, 2022
We visited the National Museum of Qatar during the day with its magnificent collection of Qatari heritage. The 430,500 square feet museum was designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel. We walked through some of the gallery spaces, but could not cover the whole museum as we had a match to watch in a couple of hours.
Morocco versus Portugal
6 members of the Pillai family, which included 2 senior citizens and a 6 year old kid went for the FIFA Quarter finals between Morocco and Portugal at the ‘Al Thumamma’ Stadium.
It was another beautiful gem in the desert. We carried my late nephew Ashley Dias’s jerseys. Ash was a diehard FIFA fan and he and Franav attended most of the World Cup matches together. Sadly Ash died trying to rescue kids from a speeding car in a crosswalk in California in September 2021. But his memories live on.
We could see crowds of Moroccans or Moroccan supporters everywhere. As senior citizens we were given wheel chair access which took us directly to the priority area. We got into our assigned seats and looked around. Fans were cheering, praying, waving flags, hugging, singing all waiting in hope and expectation for their favourites to win. Witnessing the mass hysteria of the crowds was an experience in itself.
Morocco won the match beating Portugal 1-0 and made history by becoming the first African country to reach the FIFA semi-finals. It was also sentimental as it was possibly the last World Cup match of the great Portugal star, Cristiano Ronaldo.
There was great joy in both the African and Arab world. Deafening sounds, crying and cheering filled the air all around us. So we left before the real celebrations started. Couldn’t afford to be in a stampede with a little kid with us.
But Qatar had made superb arrangements. Traffic was well regulated, and we got a taxi back to our hotel without any problems.
We boarded an Air India plane to return back home, still heady with the FIFA experience. An experience that showed us how the world of sports can connect people of all ages, all nations and all races.
My son Franav stayed on in Doha and witnessed both the Semi Finals and the Grand Final between Argentina and France. A game which many say was the greatest final ever to be played as Argentina won on penalty kicks after the match ended with the scoreline of 3-3. Franav being a huge Argentina and Messi fan was finally able to see his idol lift the World Cup to cement his status as the GOAT – ‘Greatest of All Time’ of the game.