Tue, 22 Nov 2022 04:28 PM IST
The Gulf Arab state of Qatar's new roads and transport system will be put to the test on Tuesday when four World Cup matches are played in and around the capital, Doha.
Doha, which expects to manage a wave of 1.2 million visitors during the month-long tournament, has promised that fans can take more than one match in one day, an innovation for the World Cup which has traditionally been played across several cities.
In the late morning, clusters of Saudi and Argentinian fans chanted on metro trains headed north to the 80,000-capacity and largest stadium at Lusail, where Argentina is set to play Saudi Arabia at 3:30 IST.
"We left early to be able to get to the fan zone in time and enjoy the vibes for the Saudi-Argentina match," said Iraqi fan Hamdi Mohammad Abbas, 29.
Later, Denmark face Tunisia, Mexico play Poland and France take on Australia.
The games, which will be held in stadiums with capacity for between 40,000 and 80,000 people, are starting next to the northernmost station on the Doha metro at Lusail and working their way south to end with the fourth match at Al Janoub stadium, a 5-km bus ride from the metro's southern terminus at Al Wakrah.
Berthold Trenkel, chief operating officer of Qatar Tourism, told Reuters last week the country has a state-of-the-art metro and many shuttle buses will be available.
"All of the residents have been advised to also utilise their private transportation to get to the stadiums so that you have an equal split between 1/3 metro, 1/3 bus, 1/3 cars etc," he said.
"The numbers are not that gigantic so I think the things will smooth out. You just have to tell people you cannot come 20 minutes before the match starts, you have to plan 2-3 hours in advance and you need to be a little bit patient."
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country and the smallest nation ever to host the World Cup. It has spent billions of dollars on infrastructure, but has never organised an event on such a scale - which unusually for a World Cup will also be held in or around a single city.
FIFA has imposed ticketing restrictions that allow fans to buy tickets to two matches with at least four hours between kickoffs.
"Attending more than one match on the same day is entirely your responsibility," FIFA's website warns, adding fans who are unable to attend both matches "for any reason" will not get a refund.