Dhe people are impatient on Saturday evening at the entrance to the official FIFA fan festival, which is set to become the focal point for the crowds celebrating in the coming weeks. “Open, Open,” shout the people, who are getting angry, but no one is allowed in. There aren’t that many people, maybe 400, including children, but it’s cramped, people are pushing from behind.
A tight chain of security guards, arms crossed, holds the gate shut. “Because of overcrowding,” says a man in uniform. The longer nothing happens, the harder they press, and suddenly the crowd starts to move. The gate is now open, people are moving, dozens of other Fanfest-goers who have been waiting at a distance on the spacious grounds come running.
Now they see the chance to get inside the area designed for 40,000 people. It gets really dangerous for a few moments, if someone should stumble now, they would be overrun by those following behind. There is no room to dodge and the pressure from behind is so great that the movement of the mass cannot be stopped.
Luckily nothing happens, but one thing is clear: the organizers, at least on this evening before the opening of the World Cup, have no concept that is suitable for getting many people safely through the security check. A similar picture emerges about 50 meters further on.
This time, the people waiting are standing in front of the entrance to a parcours made of bars, which is supposed to lead the queue to the control of the so-called Hayya card, which all fans had to apply for before entering the country. Among other things, this card entitles you to free use of the metro and is required to enter the Fanfest. Again there is pushing and shoving, a father with a small child fights his way out, he has recognized the danger.
“Back!” the stewards shout, but nobody reacts. A Mexican, who observes the work of the security guards from a distance, advises against queuing and says: “Hopefully a TV team will film this so that someone can prevent it from continuing like this in the coming days.” Here, too, a dangerous situation arises Chaos as the passage opens, observant visitors struggle to put a fallen fence back up.
The evening goes smoothly, and those who are finally inside can listen to a DJ in a German jersey on a huge asphalt surface in front of a stage. Before that, Lebanese singer Myriam Fares, Colombian star Maluma and American Nicki Minaj opened the event with the “Official FIFA Fan Festival Anthem” called “Tukoh Taka”; there is food and if you want, you can get half a liter of beer for the equivalent of 13 euros.
A few Brazilians hug each other in jubilation as they finally get their hands on their plastic cups, many visitors from Latin America are dancing, and exhausted families have settled on a narrow strip of artificial turf. There are only real seats in the VIP area.
Those who want to enjoy this event shouldn’t be bothered by the ubiquitous FIFA marketing, everything is staged here. And extremely uncomfortable, as shown on the way back. The most conveniently located metro station at Fanfest is basically for egress only, with the ubiquitous security guards directing people to the West Bay station. Once there, it turns out that this too has just been closed.
“It’s too full,” says a police officer. You have to take the bus, which then reaches the open subway station “Souq Waqif” after an hour through the traffic. With a gigantic line of many hundreds of people in front of it, who at least remain relaxed within the lattice course. But at least on this Saturday night there were just too many people in crucial places in Doha, even though the tournament hadn’t even started at that point.