The two free days in between the Last 16 round and the quarterfinal matches starting today provided the few Nigerian journalists and fans here the opportunities to explore the city of Doha further. Some streamed to the Souq Waqif, a marketplace in Doha to see the shop and the sights of traditional Qatari-Arabian architecture some dating back to 20th century. Souq Waqif is one of the most distinctively cultural attractions to explore in Qatar and a perfect encapsulation of local culture. Surprisingly, in between traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs hanged on shelves as if one was inside Idumota or Balogun Markets in Lagos, it was here that one met some Asians from India, Bangladesh and others that know football more than some pundits in England. In one of the restaurants with shisha clienteles taking drags from their pipes, hot arguments over who was better between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi enthralled this reporter. We watched in awe as these football aficionados engaged themselves. While Messi has played every minutes of Argentina’s run so far, Ronaldo made cameo appearance in Portugal’s Round of 16 6-1 victory over Switzerland.
The 35-year-old Messi and Ronaldo, who is two years older, have dominated football’s most polarising debate for the best part of 10 years, especially when they were rivals at Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. Both are playing at their fifth World Cup but neither has yet won the trophy. It is the only major accolade to elude them in their glittering careers, and this may be their last chance to achieve the status.
Bad Business for Ticket Racketeers
In time past, match ticket racketeering used to be a major problem for FIFA and host countries of the World Cup. Every four years, some individuals versed in the crooked business, looked forward to reaping from the matches through match tickets they had acquired legally to resell to desperate fans at astronomical prizes. For instance, a Category 4 ticket originally sold for barely $200 could go for over $1,000 in the black markets same for other categories. Several former FIFA and FA top chiefs have been punished for engaging in this under the table deals. But with the Fan ID used in Russia four years ago and now the Hayya Card here in Qatar, it is no longer business as usual for these ticket dealers’. Even some media men that previously engaged in selling tickets have all been shut out as names are now printed on these complimentary tickets. Even the tickets alone are not enough to access media seats. Accreditations are scanned to ensure the names matched the tickets. Several Nigerians who came here to see the games searched in vain for tickets and only resort to watching in Fan Zones on giant screens.
Fines for Yellow Cards and Fans’ Misconducts
Yellow cards given to players and for fans’ misconducts here have been fetching FIFA good money. Although, part of the reasons for the introduction of the fines were for fair play sake, the misbehavior of fans in whatever forms are not overlooked anymore. The Saudi Arabian Football Association was slammed with two fines of 15,000 Swiss Francs for the misconduct of its team (a total of six bookings received by Saudi players) during the matches against Argentina and Mexico on November 22 and November 30, respectively.
For displaying a flag insulting another country in their dressing room, the Football Association of Serbia was fined 20,000 Swiss francs for breaches related to article 11 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code and article 4 of the Regulations for the FIFA World Cup 2022. Similarly, the Croatian Football Federation was fined 50,000 Swiss France for breaches related to article 16 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (use of words and objects to transmit a message that is not appropriate for a sports event. It was in relation to the behaviour of Croatian supporters during the Croatia v. Canada FIFA World Cup match on November 27.