A Qatar Guide for Tourists and Residents
Home   Qatar   Doha   Contact   Qatar Jobs   Qatar Map   Request

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Qatar Football: The Italian Opera

by Wanderer

They came, they saw, and they left us completely in awe.

AC Milan, on their second trip to Doha in 110 years, did what only a few others before them have managed to do in Qatar – bring together an excited, chanting, colourful crowd to a sporting event. The game was well contested by Al Sadd and the final result, 2-1 in favour of the Italians, was just.

Doha Asian Games scenes?

In scenes reminiscent of the Doha Asian Games football final between Qatar and Iraq, the Al Sadd Stadium filled almost to capacity with star-struck fans of the Italian giants. The flow of love for Al Sadd’s outgoing captain Jaffal Rashid was not any less. The raving chants and the beating drums reverberated throughout the venue, modelled along the lines of Manchester United’s home stadium.

Enter the teams

The players from the two teams filed into the field for a 30-minute training session amid catcalls and standing ovations. They obliged the crowd with deft passes and lavish waves of hands. Beckham, ever the perfect gentleman, was the most interactive of the players. And then finally, the moment of truth arrived.

Slow start

With two of their biggest Brazilian stars – Kaka and Ronaldinho – on the bench, the Italians started slowly. They took time to establish their rhythm. When they did, it was more like a slowly building up opera rather than the team’s more familiar ‘instant rock-and-roll’. David Beckham produced some magical moments up front while Paolo Maldini took care of their defensive needs.

Pato, Mohammad Golam and Luca Antonini…

The trio made the farewell game memorable. Brazilian sensation Pato struck in the 16th minute, just as Al Sadd were settling down. He instantly made the game come alive. The first goal inspired the fans to try out several attempts at a Mexican wave, which never materialised.
Mohammed Golam pulled his club level in the 36th, if only for under a minute. Luca Antonini scored the winning goal of the day soon after.

No mean feat

The Italians may have taken the game easy, but their failure to score a third goal, in 53 minutes, speaks volumes about Al Sadd’s resilience. They played with heart and ended the game with their heads held high. Al Sadd were initially intimidated, but they gradually caught on. Although they tried hard, an equaliser was not in their stars.

Football is the winner

AC Milan may have won on paper, but the real winner was the beautiful game. It kept its audience spellbound for almost 95 minutes in a scenario begging to be replicated. The game was enough proof that good matches attracted big crowds. It should act as an eye opener for local authorities. If it succeeds in doing so, then one can safely call the AC Milan game one of the most important football matches in recent memory.