The Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup got underway at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday with the opening ceremony and the concerning early departure of thousands of fans well before the end of the first game.
The 67,000-capacity arena played host to a stunning opening ceremony that featured international and local actors, singers and dancers, including Hollywood star Morgan Freeman, K-pop sensation Jungkook of South Korean band BTS and Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi. It culminated with a firework display that lit up the sky above the stadium.
While the stadium was packed for the opening ceremony, many fans did not stay throughout the subsequent opening match between Qatar and Ecuador. With the hosts 2-0 down at half-time, thousands of fans left during the interval and did not return to their seats for the second period. Many more left during the second half as Qatar struggled to compete with their South American opponents, with the game remaining 2-0.
Former England striker Alan Shearer, working on the game for BBC television, said: “This is an hour into the game, there were so many leaving, at half time as well. They just never came back into the stadium, certainly not in the numbers that were there ahead of the game.”
Ecuador fans reportedly chanted “we want beer” during the game, referring to the decision made late last week that alcohol would not be available at World Cup venues.
Following Qatar and FIFA’s abrupt reversal on stadium beer sales, Budweiser tweeted “Well, this is awkward …” on Friday, before deleting it.
On Saturday, Budweiser tweeted a cryptic image of hundreds of crates of beer, with the words: “New Day, New Tweet. Winning Country gets the Buds. Who will get them?”
The World Cup continues today with games at three more of the new or refurbished venues in Qatar. England play Iran at the 46,000-capacity Khalifa International Stadium, with Netherlands versus Senegal at the 40,000-capacity Al Thumama Stadium, and Wales against USA at the 45,000-capacity Al-Rayyan Stadium.