Pele has understandably been on the mind of many here where the world has gathered for a tournament with which the great one is indelibly linked.
Over the weekend as news of his concerning health condition grew darker, the Torch Doha, a skyscraper hotel which overlooks Khalifa Stadium, was paying its own tribute.
The facade of the Torch is wrapped in the biggest 360-degree external screen in the world and there, rotating around the screen, was the smiling face of Pele with a message that read “Get Well Soon”. It was a rare moment of heart-warming concern for others in another corner of Doha that is surrounded by overblown malls and commercialised concrete. A capitalist hellscape, we believe, is what the kids call it.
So to record this touching moment, we pulled out our phone. Alas just as we hit record, the screen switched to an advertisement for luxury fashion brand Dior. We waited and watched for a minute or so but as the Dior detailing swirled around the screen but Pele didn’t reappear. We figure Doha had reverted to type.
Nineteen days. That’s how long we’d been in Qatar before we saw a single dog. And if you’re thinking, ‘jaysus he’s running low on diary content’ you’re probably not far off the truth. But when the four-legged friend trotted across the road near Education City Stadium yesterday, it stopped us in our tracks.
Dogs can be thought of as unclean in the Islamic world and while sometimes kept outside the house as a guard, are very rarely considered as pets. While cats are plentiful and roam freely, Qatar is one of the most dog-unfriendly capital cities in the world.
There was outrage in June when it was reported that almost 30 dogs had been slaughtered by Qatari men with rifles. The little fella cruising around Doha’s west end clearly has his wits about him.
Rumours swirled around Al Bayt on Sunday night that the host nation had again been liberally handing out tickets to ensure there were bums on seats for the England-Senegal last 16 tie.
When the northern arena was again 25-30% empty for kickoff there was some loud wondering about who they’d left in charge of distributing the freebies. However, the giant tented stadium filled up and by the time we were midway through the half it looked pretty full.
The problem clearly is that getting to Al Bayt, an hour north of Doha with no rail link, is a nightmare and the sheer number of cars and busses clogs up surrounding roads.
Yet England will be back there this Saturday for another late, late kickoff and face France who have been one of the worst-supported sides out here. So expect more freebies and more traffic snarls.
On our way out of Senegal-England we were waiting for an elevator when Martin Tyler and Alan Smith bumped into one another. The Sky colleagues work for other broadcasters out here but sounded very pleased with England’s performance. While Smith worried about France’s form, Tyler insisted “if we can get past them it looks very comfortable”. As usual, England expects…too much.