My remarkable journey into covering the World Cup 2022 began with a phone call on my way home from the hustle and bustle of the streets of London, UK, on a Thursday night, from LEADERSHIP’s head of story. , Mr. Adebayo Amodu. He said that the editor-in-chief Mr. Azu Ishiekwene would like to talk to me, he really knew something big was coming with the big masquerade.
Mr. Ishiekwene inquired about my well-being in London and asked if I would be available to cover the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, I wasted no time in accepting the offer, which is the coveted wish of every sports journalist to cover football more great. Tournament in the universe synonymous with the dream of every footballer to play in the World Cup.
Prior to the call, he had no intention of going to Qatar, so getting FIFA media accreditation to cover the event immediately was a tall order with the tournament only weeks away. After making a few calls, I had to settle for Host Country Media accreditation which gave me access to Qatar, the FIFA Fan Festival venues and other interesting places to visit, but no access to the World Cup stadiums.
I wasted no time coming up with a World Cup media plan that got approved and went ahead to book my tickets and pack my bags. The sky was clear until my descent at Hamad International Airport in Doha on Thursday, December 1.
Upon my arrival at the airport, the World Cup fever could already be spread with the designs of posters and billboards by La’eeb, which is the Official Mascot of the Games. After my immigration checks I went ahead to get a Qatari SIM card, exchanged some currency and proceeded to catch the metro to my accommodation in Al Khor and Thakhira.
On board the train, I saw many beautiful faces, both young and old, decked out in the colors of their country in full support of their national teams singing and singing. Later I retired to my room with high hopes of what the next day would bring.
After a sound sleep, I arrived the next day to prepare my equipment for coverage. Coming out of my hotel room, I discovered that there was a meeting point where World Cup guests would be summoned to the train station, which made life easier. On our way to the station it was beautiful sights to behold in terms of the facilities and culture of the Arab nation with its rich oil well.
Getting off the train, I enlisted the help of some very friendly Qataris to navigate to the Host Country Media Center located in the beautiful city of Msheireb Downtown. While waiting for the train, I saw a man who was working as one of the volunteers. from his voice one could easily tell that he is from the southern part of Nigeria, I approached him and we chatted about his home and country for a few minutes, where he revealed to me that he and many other Nigerians traveled to Qatar just to volunteer at the tournament to feed their families at home, he was a great help, he gave me the map of Qatar just to help me navigate the country.
Arriving at the media center, I was handed my accreditation five minutes after scanning my international passport, I saw some of my Nigerian colleagues from different media organizations. I immediately flew out to interview some fans who were joking before the Ghana Black Stars clash against Uruguay. I then visited the FIFA Main Ticketing Center at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center – DECC, to purchase a ticket for the Ghana match. Arriving at the ticket center, I was met by a gigantic crowd waiting to buy game day tickets so they could get in to watch the different games. To everyone’s greatest surprise, all the tickets for the group stage matches were sold out on the bulletin board, but some people kept the faith hoping for a miracle to happen, while others took advantage of the situation and started selling out. their tickets at higher prices, up to $1,000. against the $250 that was the standard rate for tickets.
It was almost time for Ghana’s match against Uruguay at Al-Janoub Stadium, I finally settled for $800 tickets after long negotiation. It was also time to join the Abuja LEADERSHIP TV studio for the World Cup show where we looked at how the Ghanaian team should approach the game and other matches of the day. Against the grain of play, Ghana’s black stars lost the match 0-2 to Uruguay as both teams were knocked out of the tournament, while Portugal’s 1-2 loss to South Korea saw both teams qualify for the round of 16 from Group H.
After the match, Ghanaian fans both young and old stayed behind to clean up the stadium while Uruguayan fans were still reeling from their elimination from the world’s top competition. I interviewed some Ghanaians about why they were cleaning the stadium despite their defeat. They said they were inspired by fans from other countries at the World Cup, they also expressed their joy at the departure of Luis Suárez after the Uruguayan captain denied Ghana becoming the first African country to reach the World Cup semifinals. in 2010 organized in South Africa with a last minute handball. After such a busy day, I tried again to go to my room.
The next day saw the start of the Round of 16 matches as the Netherlands thrashed the USA 3-1 while Argentina narrowly beat Australia 2-1. Before the game, I traveled through the metro stations to the Corniche venue of the FIFA Fan Festival, where fans can watch all 64 FIFA World Cup matches in a lively atmosphere, with performances by the world’s top music artists. as well as local artists. , food court with unique culinary experiences ranging from local cuisine to international delicacies, unique soccer matches featuring FIFA Legends, plus interactive digital and physical soccer game stations for fans of all ages and innovative sponsor activities, exhibits dedicated to football and an official FIFA store with licensed FIFA World Cup merchandise.
I interviewed some fans from different countries about which nation they would support to win the World Cup and most of the people supported their country while the fans were enjoying the atmosphere, making new friends and socializing with other nationalities. In reality, one could see that sports were in fact a unifying factor uniting all races and nations.
As one of the 1.4 million people who visited Qatar for the World Cup, it has really changed my perspective ahead of the World Cup compared to the negative foreign media reports on Qatar, as the experience and memories of the Arab nation will never be forgotten in my lifetime, therefore I said goodbye to Qatar with a heavy heart, as my trip to the World Cup was interrupted by a call from London.