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Football passion in stands and on pitch during Workers’ Cup opening night in Qatar

#WorkersWelfare #Qatar #Football #Event

Whenever the ball came within scoring distance of the goal at Qatar Sports Club Stadium on Friday night, a roar went through the 5,289 fans present at the 2016 Workers’ Cup Group A encounter between Nakheel Landscapes and AALCO Group, which followed the opening ceremony of the fourth edition of the popular tournament.

That the crowd – most of whom worked for the 24 teams participating in this year’s edition – were connected to the tournament is an understatement. 

“For the fans who are here today, there will be seven mini World Cups before we get to the main one in 2022,” said Charles Antony, 28, a Doha-based Indian national working for Group D side Shapoorji Pallonji Qatar.

“I will be passionately following the fortunes of my team, just as I support the national team I have followed from childhood: Argentina. We narrowly lost our opener against Delta Doha 2-3 and their last-minute winner was heartbreaking. But we are pleased at how well we played and am confident results will go in our favour in the future.”

Govind Rai and Mohammed Rafeeq Khan share Charles’ love when it comes to international football, Argentina. However, they were more upbeat as their teams coasted to straight forward victories in their opening group games. 41-year-old Mohammed is a Bangladesh national who works as a gardener in Nakheel while Govind, from Nepal, is 10 years younger and an office assistant at Group B side Outlook Trading and Consulting, who overcame DICO TECH Qatar 9-0. 

Govind, a die-hard fan of Lionel Messi, proudly declares that his friend Raj Kumar Chowdhary is a forward for Outlook. “Though Raj did not put his name in the scorers’ list in the first game I expect big things from him in the tournament. His left foot is as good as Messi’s,” added Govind with a smile. 

In between shouting himself hoarse as his team orchestrated wave after wave of attacks against a busy AALCO defence during a 5-0 win, an overwhelmed Mohammed said he treasured the evening’s experience.

“Our employers have provided transport to the stadium and back so that we can back our mates on the pitch. This is a great experience,” he said. “Inshallah, we will win the tournament and I will be back here again for the final. For me, that would be as fantastic an experience as when I watched Argentina, captained by my idol Diego Maradona, win the World Cup in 1986 as a boy in Bangladesh.”  

Mohammed’s support did not go in vain. Nakheel's attacking midfielder Stanley Amaechi Okafor, who scored two goals, attributed the win to team work and support from the stands. “We have trained hard together over the last few weeks and it showed. I am sure we will do well in the tournament. The colleagues in the stands were unbelievable and their support pushed us forward to get this victory,” said the Nigerian national.

It was Stanley’s African compatriot in the stands, Ampofu Twomasi, who provided the template to understand the spirit of the tournament. “It is all about competing and having fun,” said the 28-year-old from Ghana, who works for Group A side Larsen and Toubro Qatar. “We are not rivals but friends competing. When any African side plays an Asian side in the World Cup in 2022, this will be the story as Africans and Asians are similar in many aspects. Just imagine Ghana taking on Qatar here,” he concluded with a smile. 

Organised by the Qatar Stars League (QSL) and sponsored by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the seven-week tournament aims to demonstrate the power of football by uniting Qatar’s football community and offer an opportunity for workers involved in building 2022 FIFA World Cup™ infrastructure to showcase their football skills.

The final is scheduled for May 6.