We watched Spain vs Germany in the fan zone reserved for migrant workers in the Doha Industrial Zone

Landing in Asian Town forces the visitor to discover another Doha. The one you don’t see on commercials, invisible by the luxurious skyscrapers for expats of The Pearl and the other eccentricities of which the emirate has the secret. Asian Town is located southwest of Doha, on the edge of the industrial zone where some of the migrant workers who make the megalopolis run live. It could be described as a commercial artery entirely dedicated to populations from Southeast Asia. Like all corners hype from Doha, it has its “Mall” – a huge shopping center -, a string of shops of all kinds and quite a few large car parks to park in. With one detail: it’s not really the kind of place where you can find Galeries Lafayette or Printemps. Here, the names of shops are not written in the Latin alphabet, the sidewalks are dilapidated and the light is sporadic. However, as if to say  » thank you «  to all those loyal workers who have worked at the risk of losing their skin so that this World Cup takes place, this is where Qatar has set up one of its fan zones. There, therefore, that a lot of people meet after work to try to escape from a reality that has nothing to do with a fairy tale.

Asia or standing, football is everywhere

When you enter the fan zone around 8:30 p.m., a scattered crowd has settled here and there, on the floor or on the pallets adorning the concrete slab, their eyes glued to a giant screen broadcasting the end of the meeting between Croatia and Canada. Admission is free, everything is overseen by FIFA, but unlike the Fan Festival on the Corniche in Doha – an equivalent of the Promenade des Anglais – there are no big Adidas signs or stands selling alcohol. Instead, there are a few eateries that sell Nepali, Indian or even Pakistani dishes. Not surprising, when we know that in Qatar, the three largest communities which are Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese represent almost half of the total population on the territory. All have one thing in common: they came here to seek a better life, temporarily or even for the long term, or are there to send some money for the rest of their family back home.

This is the case of Mandeep *, perhaps the biggest fan of Kylian Mbappé in Nepal. Despite his frail build, he is part of the security team of the Tunisian selection. “At home, I can see Everest from my windowhe says, visibly less moved by the point of view he has on Wahbi Khazri. Me, I’m only here for the World Cup, and then I’ll go home. » A situation that does not worry him, at least on the front, and which does not prevent him from yelling when Andrej Kramarić offers his double on the screen. Croatia wins 4-1, and while waiting for the clash of the evening to begin, a small music group performs the replays on a small stage located under another giant screen: that of the Asian Town Cricket Stadium, which found right next to it. A 13,000-seat enclosure opened in 2013 – at the same time as the Mall – to host cricket matches, as its name suggests. Except during this 2022 World Cup.

“We’ll see who he’s going to attack! »

Inside, there are those who prefer to sit and chat about anything and everything on the scorched lawn or in the bleachers. There are also “groupies” who go wild over covers of World Cup anthems or I Gotta Feeling of the Black Eyed Peas. And others who play football in the middle of two small cages. This is precisely where Mohammad* is, leaning against one of the barriers as one does on a handrail in a rural setting. Dressed in a traditional white outfit, this Pakistani currently works in an American fast-food restaurant and earns “about 1300 riyals” (334 euros, Ed) per month. A little more than the local minimum wage, which soars to 1000 riyals. « This is my first time here.enlightens Mohammad. Tomorrow night or another night of the week I will be back to play here with friends. But I come mainly to see the match! »

The match, precisely, between Spain and Germany, finally begins. Everyone goes back to their seat or their piece of land, the balls are picked up by members of the staff who take care of the enclosure, and silence falls. A few cries escape from the entrance, when Dani Olmo sees his masterpiece annihilated by Manuel Neuer. There is no doubt that a major part of the audience supports Germany. When Antonio Rüdiger thinks he is scoring with a header, some get up and start dancing. Two Nepalese are more distracted and observe a beetle coming in their direction. “We’ll see who he’s going to attack! », loose the oldest of the two, hilarious. They too support Germany for a simple reason: “Spain has already won a match in this World Cup! » Unstoppable argument.

Draw, Hitler and giant screen

Halftime is already coming to Al-Bayt. Spain and Germany hold each other in respect, but Ruben* is agitated on the telephone. This young Bhutanese who wears a jersey from the Nationalmannschaft ends up hanging up, and the reason for his love for the German formation will surprise you: “I’ve loved Germany since I was a kid, and it’s thanks to Hitler! » Hitler?!  » Yeshe said, drawing a photo of the German dictator on his smartphone to avoid any misunderstandings. He defended his country, alone, against the United States, Russia, England… It is thanks to him finally if today, I like Miroslav Klose or Thomas Müller! » Álvaro Morata’s opener on the hour mark shortens this discussion.

It was only after twenty minutes of suffering that Niclas Füllkrug finally released the cohort of German fans, including Ruben, who exulted in front of the prowess of their new hero. 1-1, final score. It’s 11:55 p.m., and all these beautiful people are heading for the exit. Robert, who comes from Uganda, is a bit disappointed: “My friend, after Germany’s failed run in 2018, I don’t want them to miss each other yet. I wanted them to win tonight! But I think if Spain beats Japan and they beat Costa Rica, it can do it. » To accompany their departure, a message broadcast on the giant screen recalls the various activities planned for this Monday, the prayer times or the poster between Portugal and Uruguay which will conclude the day at 10 p.m. local time. The kind of match that many of these men in the shadows will never see in a stadium. For that, you have to have the Hayya Card, a kind of visa, to hope to party with the rest of the world, the one who is in Qatar to enjoy their work. But once again, like every night, it will be through a screen that they will see thousands of others living their dream.

* The first names have been changed to protect the principals concerned.
Photos: AC.

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