Qatar soccer squad for World Cup 2022

Billions of Dollars Bought Qatar a World Cup But Not Loyal Fans in Opener vs Ecuador

By the time referee Daniele Orsato blew for the final whistle on Sunday for Qatar’s 2-0 loss in the 2022 World Cup opener, the whole visual palette of the Al-Bayt Stadium had changed, as reported by ESPN.

What was once a sizeable patch of Ecuadorian yellow, a cluster of burgundy from the ultras section supporting Qatar, and a preponderance of unmistakable black (for the women) and white (for the men) in traditional dress had been transformed. The yellow was still there and the burgundy had thinned but now there were huge patches of pale red — the color of empty seats at the Al-Bayt.

It is unlikely that there was much more than one-third of the announced 67,372 attendance remaining and, indeed, you could see home supporters file out as early as the end of a first half, which saw Qatar go two goals down.

This is my seventh World Cup, and only once before have I seen these many home fans abandon a stadium early. That was eight years ago in Belo Horizonte, when Brazil took on Germany in a World Cup semifinal and famously fell behind 5-0 by halftime.

But that was the Mineirazo (rough translation: “the agony of Mineirão,” the stadium where the game was played) — it was the ultimate day of shame for the Seleção, an imponderable trip into football’s twilight zone as Brazil lost 7-1.

This walkout in Doha was different. This was Qatar’s first-ever World Cup game. And, while they weren’t playing well, they were two-goals down against Ecuador, not some powerhouse, which offered hope for the second half. And, sure, even though they were on their way to becoming the first host nation in World Cup history to lose the opening game (though they could not have known it at the time), Qatar still had — and have — two more opportunities against Senegal and the Netherlands.

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