Posts Tagged ‘Wales’

Wales v Iran, Friday 25th November 2022, 1pm

November 29, 2022

Friday meant our last game of the trip, just as we were getting the hang of it all. We’d learned that the metro was probably the best way to get to a stadium as it eliminated the risk of a traffic jam, whilst taking the bus back to Doha centre meant avoiding the post-match crush.

Ahmad Bin Ali stadium is around twenty kilometres west of Doha and we took the same green line that we’d used for the opening game, travelling one stop beyond the Education City stadium. Our carriage had a fairly even mix of the two sets of supporters and we got songs from both sides.

There was a fifteen-minute walk to the ground, although we ended up spending half an hour or so faffing around as I couldn’t get my digital match ticket to activate. We called into the ticket centre and two young girls worked their magic so that my phone could pick up the necessary Bluetooth and location signals.

We joined the queue for the entrance, just in front of some Welsh fellas who expressed some very anti-English sentiments. Presumably they either didn’t know or didn’t care about our nationality but it left me a little less favourable to the Principality’s chances than I had been.

Once inside Paul and I made our way to the upper tier and our seats in the corner. It was a decent view and well-shaded. I took the opportunity to ask the bloke behind to photograph us. I rarely bother with that sort of thing, but we’ve had one taken at each of the last four World Cups and its good to keep the continuity going as well as confirming my belief that we’ve barely aged at all.

The anthems were interesting. Wales sang theirs with all the gusto that you’d expect. It’s a great anthem, not quite as good as the French one in my opinion, but not far short.

The Iranian anthem had caused some controversy in their first game when the team had declined to sing it. They relented this time, presumably, and understandably, under some intense pressure, and the protesting against their government was left to the fans. There was plenty of booing and whistling and a woman a few rows behind us shouted ‘Freedom’ all the way through it.

Iran created the better chances in the first half and should have scored. One pass too many meant that when they did get the ball in the net the VAR team ruled it offside. The Wales fans around us seemed surprised that it wasn’t going to plan and may very well have thought it an easy three points after England’s 6-2 demolition of Iran four days earlier.

I suspect that the heat didn’t help and most of the Wales players, particularly the older ones, seemed sluggish and well off the pace of the game.

The second half was mainly more of the same and the game looked to be heading for a draw, until with five minutes left the Welsh keeper ‘Schumachered’ an Iranian who was headed for goal. The initial yellow was overturned, and he had to go. I was hoping that Wales had used all five subs and would have to put an outfield player between the sticks, but sadly they had at least one substitution remaining and were able to bring on another keeper.

The stoppage contributed to nine minutes of additional time and that was sufficient for Iran to score twice. I couldn’t resist a wry smile, not because I’ve anything against Wales, but more in support of an underdog and the joy that each goal brought to the Iranian fans around us.

At the final whistle the walk to the bus hub thinned out the crowd and we were soon being driven away without any queueing at all. It had been a very enjoyable tournament. The boat accommodation worked well and the organization and transport logistics for getting to the games had been first-class. I found the people that we encountered to be friendly, polite and happy to talk about their lives.

One thought that I took away from Qatar is that football support can be passionate without alcohol. I rarely drink at games anyway these days, but it was a pleasure to go to matches without encountering the pissed-up cokeheads that are hard to avoid in England, particularly as an away fan in the higher tiers of the pyramid.

The November scheduling wasn’t an issue for me and, as a plus, means that we are only three and a half years away from 2026. I’ve not yet seen matches in Canada or Mexico so am looking forward to that World Cup and a North American adventure.