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Soccer-Chaos at Al Bidda fan fest before World Cup opener

Randy Mancini 24 November 20, 2022

By Nick Said

DOHA (Reuters) -Chaotic scenes broke out inside and outside the fan festival at Al Bidda Park in Doha on Sunday an hour before the kick off of the opening World Cup match between hosts Qatar and Ecuador after organisers allowed too many fans to flood the precinct.

The venue has a capacity of 40,000 but at least double that number of people tried to make their way in and for a long time many were let into a holding area between the main festival park and the perimeter entrance.

Police realised the problem and had to shepherd irate supporters back out of the venue.

“It was dangerous,” one fan carrying a child aged nearly four, who had exited the holding area, told Reuters.

“They let too many people in. We never made it into the main area and I was glad to leave.”

The police took about 45 minutes to clear the excess fans from the area.

Frustrated local fans, volunteers and media were visibly upset with police, but supporters of other countries appeared more understanding.

While the scenes were chaotic at Al Bidda, at the famous Souk Waqif market fans from all over the world converged with many flags from Saudi Arabia and Iran on show, as well as a strong representation from South America.

For 20 Qatari riyals, fans could do three laps of a pen on the back of a muzzled camel, overlooked by the studios of TV broadcasters.

As kick off approached, the narrow streets of the Souk began to empty, the air filled with the scent of spices and dried fruits on sale outside the various shops.

(Reporting by Nick Said, Philip O’Connor; writing by Manasi Pathak in Al Rayyan; Editing by Ken Ferris)