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Qatar World Cup 2022: Seven key moments you may have missed

From protests to demonstrations of solidarity and unusual encounters, we take a look at some stand-out highlights
A young Qatari fan supports his team during the Qatar vs. Senegal match at the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 at Thumama Stadium in Doha on 25 November (Reuters)

All eyes have been on Qatar this month as more than a million fans descended on Doha for the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East.

For Arab fans around the world, having the games hosted in the region is seen as a major milestone and a source of pride.

While the focus remains on the pitch, fans in Doha’s streets and historic souq Waqif market have provided countless moments illustrating football's power in bringing people together.

Many are also finding innovative ways to raise awareness on causes they are passionate about.

Here, we take a look at some of the most noteworthy and viral moments from the first week of the World Cup.

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1. Thobes everywhere 

While most people are accustomed to the demure white colour of the thobe, a long and loose garment typically worn by Arab men, the streets of Doha were awash with a slightly different variation.

Easily spotted from a distance, fans wanting to immerse themselves in Middle Eastern culture donned brightly coloured thobes.

Not wanting to be half-hearted about it, many also chose a matching ghutra or shemagh, a popular head cover in the Arab world, to go along with it. Some opted for the headpiece - traditionally worn to protect people from harsh weather conditions and sand - that resemble their country’s flag. 

Online, social media was flooded with viral videos of people learning about Qatar's national dress for the first time, and learning more about the local heritage.

thobe qatar
Fans wear the custom-made flag thobes ahead of the World Cup (Screengrab/Instagram)

Prior to the matches, many expressed doubt about the Gulf country hosting the tournament due to cultural differences, but on the ground, fans were seen excitedly embracing traditions.

In one viral video, a Qatari influencer was seen showing an England fan how to properly wear the ghutra before posing for a photo with him. 

In another video, a policeman was also seen stopping fans - not for disorderly behaviour, but rather to help them adjust their ghutra. 

Numerous businesses have also sprung up just in time for the games, selling thobes and ghutras to fans.

2. Beer-hunting ends in encounter with cub lions

The World Cup organisers' last-minute u-turn on the sale of alcoholic beverages at the stadiums sent some fans into a frantic search for beers.

However, the hunt for drinks took an unexpected turn for two England fans when they ended up meeting the son of a Qatari "sheikh", who drove them in a Toyota Land Cruiser to his home.

Kitted out in a bucket hat, rounded sunglasses, and an Everton football shirt, one of the fans says he got to pet a lion and meet a collection of exotic birds and monkeys at the home. 

qatar cubs lions fans england
England fan gives an account of going to a 'palace' in Qatar where he met exotic birds, monkeys, and a lion (TalkSport)

The video of the fans documenting their quest for beers went viral, amassing millions of views on social media platforms.  

In an interview with TalkSport, the fans praised local hospitality, saying that they were made to feel "so welcome" and that it "doesn't get any better than this".

In the video, the camera pans around to show a luxury home, while the fans gleefully pet and play with the cub lions, planting kisses on their faces. 

While it isn’t clear if they eventually got their hands on the beers, one thing is for sure: they got a surprise.

3. Japanese and Iranian fans clean stadiums

In keeping with long-observed tradition, Japan fans rose to clean up the stadium as soon as their national team's match against Germany was over on 23 November. 

Leading by example, the fans have won the hearts and respect of people globally as they ensured the stadiums were left spotless following matches. 

The practice was seen taking place more than once, even during games where Japan was not competing. 

Videos showed Japanese supporters with disposable bags in hand, picking up litter between the seats and on the stairways in the stadiums. The collective effort has been commended online, with many people saying that others should learn from the initiative.

The Japanese seem to have influenced other fans at the World Cup, with a video later surfacing of Iranian fans also cleaning up the stadium after their win against Wales on Friday.   

4. Qatari and Ecuadorian fans reconcile

Matches at the World Cup get tense. 

Naturally, fans erupt with emotion when watching their team play, many of them having a passionate attachment to their country.

This was the case in the game between hosts Qatar and Ecuador where, obscured in the stands, an altercation broke out. 

A video showing an Ecuadorian fan taunting Qataris - who shouted back at him - during the opening match of the World Cup was shared online.

However, shortly after, the two got together and recorded a video showing they had reconciled. 

“We had a disagreement between us but we made peace with each other,” the Qatari fan says, shaking hands with the Ecuadorian counterpart.

“I hope that everyone shares this clip… in the end, we’re only here to watch this beautiful game,” he added.

“Passion sometimes makes people upset, but we come together for sports…I wish Qatar the best and it’s a beautiful World Cup so far,” the Ecuadorian fan responds.  

5. Arab fans shun Israeli journalists 

Israeli journalists struggled to source interviews at the World Cup as they were shunned by Arab fans who refused to speak to them in an act of boycott.

The move, which was done as a show of solidarity for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, was documented in a number of videos shared online. 

Footage circulating on social media showed two Saudi fans, a Qatari shopper, and three Lebanese fans walking away from Israeli reporters. Others have waved the Palestinian flag behind the Israeli journalists.  

A reporter with Israel's Channel 12 was also given a rude awakening by Lebanese fans, whom he addressed in Arabic after the World Cup opening ceremony on Sunday. 

"Are you Lebanese? I'm Israeli!" said the presenter in Arabic. 

The fans immediately turned their back on him, with one coming back to say: "It's called Palestine - there is no Israel."

Another Channel 13 reporter could be seen surrounded by Palestinian fans waving their flags and chanting "go home" when he was doing a live TV interview.

Qatar does not officially recognise Israel, setting Palestinian statehood as a condition for that. But it has allowed direct flights from Tel Aviv for the World Cup, as well as a delegation of Israeli diplomats to handle logistics.

6. Iranians protest during their national anthem

Just before Iran's opening match against England, players abstained from singing the national anthem in what seemed like a show of solidarity with the ongoing women-led protests back home.

The protests, which have entered their second month, were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody after they stopped her for allegedly wearing her headscarf “inappropriately”.

Protesters have been calling for an end to Iran's hijab law and the dismantling of the so-called "morality police" that enforce women's dress.

Iranian authorities have responded with force. An estimated 300 people have been killed in the unrest so far.

At Iran’s second World Cup match, players seemed to reluctantly mutter the national anthem while fans in the stadium booed and jeered.

Many fans were spotted with flags with the word "woman" emblazoned on them, while others wore t-shirts printed with the slogan that has defined the protests: "Women, life, freedom". 

world cup iran protest
An Iranian fan has her face painted in support of the protests unfolding in Iran (Reuters)

Iranian footballer Ramin Rezaeian dedicated his goal to the people of Iran after scoring in the 2-0 win against Wales on Friday.

“I’m here to say, this goal was a gift for my people in Iran, especially those who are suffering,” he said in an interview shared on social media. 

He goes on to say that Iranian people are the best - "so kind, so intelligent, so good" - and that he is there to do whatever he can to bring the people any amount of joy.

7. Qatar and Senegal fans pray together 

In a major blow to the hosts, Senegal eliminated Qatar from the tournament on Friday after beating them 3-1.

However, the jubilant Senegalese fans along with their disappointed Qatari counterparts put football aside after the match as they came together to pray shoulder-to-shoulder.

Online, many social media users praised the moment that followed a tense contest.

In another show of kindness, Qataris living around the Al Thumama Stadium offered food to supporters who attended the match. 

Dressed in traditional white thobes, men and children assembled into one line, each holding plates of traditional Middle Eastern food, ready to hand out to fans who had worked up an appetite after the match. 

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