Qatar 2022: A World Cup Adventure

Dinesh Nair

Practically all my friends are football fanatics. Playing and watching football was all we could think about when we were growing up. We watched as many FIFA World Cup games as we could on TV no matter what time it was. We often snuck out of our rooms to turn on the TV and watch matches without our parents knowing. The idea of watching the games in person was an unachievable dream at that time. Things changed when I managed to buy tickets for the Brazil World Cup in 2014.

Kicking off my journey

As doctors, we always feel guilty if we take too long a break from work. When I took three weeks off from my cardiology private practice to go to Brazil with my buddies (all non-doctors), many of my colleagues thought I was crazy. However, it did not stop there. My friends and I then went to Russia in 2018 and subsequently Qatar in December 2022.

Each FIFA World Cup has been a crazy adventure in itself, and each one has been so different from the other. Whether it was the atmosphere, the people, or the way it was organised, these aspects were all in stark contrast. For the previous two World Cups, we had stayed in the host countries for several weeks. However, for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, we decided to fly in only for the final match as we were not sure of the logistics and setup beforehand. There was so much uncertainty because of the many press reports about restrictions in Qatar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another lockdown or change in regulations was always potentially around the corner. We bought air tickets several months before the finals without knowing what might happen, and we hoped for the best.

When we finally made our way to Doha, Qatar soon after the second semi-final, we were thrilled to be able to witness the two giants of world football, Argentina and France, battle it out on the pitch. From the moment we arrived, we were struck by the warmth and kindness of the locals as well as the travelling fans. They welcomed us with open arms, eager to share their culture and traditions. We had the best Arabic food and Indian biryani we ever tasted while we were there. The atmosphere in the capital city, Doha, was vibrant, with fans from all over the world filling the streets in anticipation of the final match.

The final game at Lusail Stadium

The breathtaking finals

The Lusail Stadium where the finals was held is a technological marvel with state-of-the-art facilities and a capacity of over 80,000 spectators. As I took my seat, the energy of the crowd was electric, and I felt it in my bones that I was in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The majority of spectators were not primary fans of either team, but most supported Argentina. The stadium was mainly awash with blue and white, the Argentinian colours. The match was hyped up as being a clash between Lionel Messi from Argentina and Kylian Mbappe from France.

The match itself was a rollercoaster of emotions, with both teams playing the game of their lives. Argentina completely controlled the first 70 minutes of the 90-minute match. Messi and Di Maria scored a goal each in the first half and everyone felt there was no way back into the game for France. And then Kylian Mbappe, the wonder-kid from France, scored a penalty in the 80th minute and another blistering goal just a minute later to level the score. France suddenly found a renewed sense of conviction and it looked as if they would win. As the match went into extra time, the tension in the stadium was almost physically palpable, and the fans were going absolutely crazy! Messi and Mbappe both scored again and then the game went to penalties. Mbappe was the first player to score a hat-trick (three goals) in the World Cup finals since Geoff Hurst did so for England in 1966, and Messi scored two goals for Argentina.

No one had ever witnessed a game like this before. I know many of you reading this were also watching the game live on TV and some of you may even have been in the stadium with me. Argentina finally won after an extremely dramatic penalty shootout and the stadium erupted in mind-blowing celebration. It was a moment of great joy and pride for the Argentinians, who had waited for 36 years to win the World Cup again. Messi was finally able to lift the one trophy he never had. Many hailed this as the ultimate crowning glory for a player who was already lauded as the best in the world.

Not since the days of the great and late Diego Maradona had there been a celebration in Argentina like this. The world media was filled with images of the massive celebrations in Argentina and numerous countries full of Argentinian fans for several days. The celebrations after the game in Doha were equally crazy, as they combined the Qatar National Day parade with the Argentinian victory parade.

Closing thoughts in extra time

Undoubtedly, my experience in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup final was an unforgettable one. When the city of Doha gradually emptied itself of the many visitors, we got to see the real Qatar. The country's natural beauty, stunning architecture and welcoming people really touched my heart. The sand dunes just outside of Doha were a particular highlight, providing a unique and memorable experience. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it all and I hope to return someday.

Sports, and in particular football, brings people from all walks of life and all corners of the world together, and inspires them to greater heights. I found myself reflecting about my role in Singapore football. As someone who has been a council member of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and chairman of the FAS Medical Committee for over a decade, contributing to the development of Singapore football has been a highlight of my life. Through our work at the grassroots level and with the national team, the FAS has focused on building a culture of excellence and promoting a healthy lifestyle through football. My sincere hope is that Singapore football will be able to achieve even greater things on the international stage soon.

Souq Waqif Marketplace in Doha


Yasmine Palace Restaurant

Dinesh Nair is an interventional cardiologist in private practice at Mt Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre. He has been a council member of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and has served as chairman of the FAS Medical Committee since 2011.


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