WE LIVED IT, WE WON IT
A spectator's perspective of the Qatar Handball Championships 2015.
Over the course of two weeks, we had attended as many matches as we could manage without passing out from exhaustion and sleep deprivation. We sat in every part of the stadium–from the media boxes and the VIP seats to the skyboxes and the economy seats at the topmost levels from where the players look like tiny stick figures. And we saw every kind of match; ones that were decided in the last two seconds of the game and those that were sealed in the first 15 minutes (and yet, some of the best plays we saw were made by teams that had absolutely no chance of winning). And we can assure you, handball is just as exciting and adrenaline-fueled no matter where you sit, who you support and how tired you are. Who knew!
Qatar Handball 2015 was, for the most part, a success. Losail Multipurpose Hall and Ali Hamad bin Al Attiya Arena are both world-class. Not only is Losail gorgeous to look at (especially so when all lit up and bathed in fireworks), it has top-notch facilities. Iraqi artist Ahmad Al Bahrani's sculptures in the stadium premises are Qatar's newest public art commissions. And apart from some congestion at the Roundabout past the Doha Golf Club which meets the road from Duhail, the traffic was never clogged at the stadium itself. It was a feat. Especially for someone who had been
dropping in from the first day of the championship, and could see the numbers swell every day even as the Qatari team made steady progress in the game. During the Super 8 and quarter-final matches, the stadium was a sea of white thobes. It was quite a sight, one you had to see to believe. The volunteers, the orange-clad warriors, were of course the backbone of the games, always smiling, helpful, and in high spirits.
Qatar's stunning progress into the Final Four played no small part in drumming up supporters for the game. In the early days, we'd get emails from the Ministry of Interior inviting us to bring our family and friends to the Qatar games, assuring us free entry. By the end, even people with paid tickets were unable to get in. We were also left a bit shell-shocked (pleasantly, of course) at the big names that were roped in for post- match entertainment. The organisers have truly outdone themselves and maybe deliberately so, to show the world that Qatar can and will put on a good show come 2022.
Now we have to talk about the bad. Of course, there were inevitable problems with the tickets. Between open invitations to walk in for free (Qatar Airways, for instance, had encouraged their employees to show up, present their company IDs and collect tickets on the day of the match) and Qatar's unexpected winning streak, it was probably hard to predict the kind of crowd that would throng to the stadiums (especially when Arab teams like Tunisia and Egypt were playing). What was unconscionable was turning away people who had valid tickets just because you wanted to fill the stadium and fill it with specific kinds of people. Yes, the home team was doing
Danish player Hansen scores against Saudi Arabia
The Qatari cheering squad
A Qatari cheering contingent arrives
Scenes from the stellar opening ceremony
The match where it all began; Qatar vs Brazil on the inaugural day of the games