On the day following the Greatest World Cup final, Qatar empties, leaving an emptiness in its wake

It was a night that never ended on Sunday. Lionel Messi and his friends, their fans, any football fan, perhaps not even the entire population of this country. Even after the game had ended, and the reality of what had happened slowly sinking in, the crowd remained glued to the screen. In the stands, some were processing the tumult they had witnessed; some lingered on to celebrate, perhaps for one last glimpse of Messi or Mbappe.

A large number of people gathered near the Lusail Stadium to soak up the atmosphere and to fully appreciate the slice of history they had witnessed. In some instances, the Argentinian fans appeared to be genuinely stoned, and most of them were crying on one another’s shoulders. Antonio Lopez, 62 years of age, has witnessed Diego Maradona and Mario Kempes winning the World Cup. “However, this is one of the greatest football matches I have ever witnessed.”. In my opinion, this may be the greatest match I have ever witnessed. It is difficult for me to express my feelings. He pauses and chokes for breath, unable to express what he is experiencing.

Messi’s I’m drunk tonight continued to blare in metros, buses, streets, and alleyways with a level of energy that did not diminish. Marianna quips that we are going to get drunk tonight. In spite of this, where is the alcohol? β€œThe game itself took us on a trip,” she says, adding that the dance and song would not cease for a very long time.

While all the jubilation was taking place, they did not forget to console French fans whenever they encountered them. An Antoine Griezmann shirt wearing French fan sulked near the exit of a metro station while exhaling thick fumes from his electronic cigarette. His jersey was swapped with the one of an Argentine who wrapped his arms around him and consoled him. When the World Cup hangover ends, it is such moments that Qatar will miss as it reacquaints itself with a post-World Cup life. The life of a boring, tedious individual.

In Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, Argentina’s Lionel Messi holds the trophy after winning the World Cup final against France. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

The country has also captured the hearts of some tourists. During the last fortnight, Mateo Perez, a resident of Rosario, Argentina, has been learning more about Qatar. Arriving in Doha in time for Argentina’s round of sixteen game, he became increasingly intrigued by the culture, cuisine, and history of the city. While he was free, he’d visit the national museum, library, and soak up the old-world grandeur of Souq Waqif and Msheireb. We thought it was going to be a football pilgrimage, but it turned out to be a cultural tour.

He says the trip opened his eyes. When I was at home, I had to worry about CIDs sniffing behind you, that they could put you in prison if you wore shorts or sleeveless tees, and that military forces were watching over my shoulder while I watched the game. I was even advised to cancel my trip by the vicar of the church due to a gross violation of human rights. Initially, I felt a little apprehensive. I feel that this is a bunch of nonsense now,” he asserts.

His departure, along with thousands of others, would plunge the country into a state of solitude on Tuesday.

Following a night most memorable in their lives, the country awoke late, late as it had never awoken before. They woke up groggily on Monday morning, still intoxicated with the magic they experienced on Sunday night. Tourists hurry reluctantly and tearfully back to their homes with a treasure trove of memories that they will hold onto for the rest of their lives on the only busy highway that leads to the two airports.

Even though it wasn’t what they expected, the Qatar World Cup was exciting, fun, and beyond their wildest expectations. After a month-long festival of football, with all its raw thrills, the country would gradually slip into a suffocating silence, holding onto the nostalgia, sliding into an emptiness, returning to the days before the World Cup.

In the event of a vacuum, it would occur suddenly. Over the course of a month, they lived in a dream-land; on the tiny peninsula were the eyes of the world, the colour of the globe. The country was never a tourist destination, but millions of people from all over the world, including Ecuador, Mexico, Cameroon, and Serbia, called it home.

In addition to hearing the most diverse range of languages and dialects in the world, you would also be able to see a variety of different costumes and listen to the most indigenous instruments of percussion. In a country with fewer than three million citizens and a size no greater than Mumbai, a mass of human beings thrice as large was seen.

However, within a few days, they would find themselves in a state of emptiness. In the metro, tourists’ lifeblood and meeting place, there will be as much space for them to play football as in the park. As a result, the busy cobbled-stoned alleys of the Souq Waqif would cease to bustle. In the future, the Corniche would not be as crowded as it had been during the World Cup. It is in the process of dismantling the fan parks. It was possible to hear the cranes spluttering. There has been a slow return to normalcy in Qatar since the World Cup ended. The tedium of everyday life. The game of football provided a refuge for me. There is no longer any reference to it.

What about the eight stadiums? They would feel the most alone. A month later, they were buzzing and lively. The sand under the concrete structure would reveal the sweat, tears, and joy the players had experienced. It would be disassembled and reassembled in Africa, and some would wait for their next moment of glory. Some of them would be turned into offices, some would be leased to local clubs. There are some that will stay as reminders of the days Qatar hosted the World Cup.

It would be difficult for them to replace the players, the fans, and the music. There is no doubt that the stadiums would shed tears over the glory that has been lost, of the magic that once existed, more than the country itself. When the World Cup, or another event of such stature, returns to the country, how many years and decades will pass between their next meeting. There will be many long and boring days and nights after Sunday. The fans and football were bid farewell with tears in their eyes.


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