Never mind the cricket, here come the Socceroos!


After the success of our two Arabic adventurers in bringing us their Asian Diary from the first week of the Asian Cup we were delighted to secure the services for one game only of Jon Lawrence, author of Astoldby,me.  as well as being an ex-colleague, he is one of the most travelled men I know so who better to report on the semi-final featuring his native Australia and Uzbekistan.

It was purely by chance that I found myself in Doha for the Asian Cup semi-final clash between the Socceroos and Uzbekistan’s White Wolves. Just a few days earlier, I had been told by my employer that I was required to spend a week with our client here while one of my colleagues installed their new system.

I reluctantly admit that I had not been following the Asian Cup closely – I’d been very busy at work and the matches were on at ungodly hours of the morning (and not on free-to-air TV). I was only vaguely aware that it was even in Qatar.

A few minutes of research later, I was very excited, having discovered that my trip would coincide with the Semi-Finals, with the Socceroos looking much more positive under new coach Holger Osieck and about to tackle the Iraqis in the Quarters. Continue reading

Ladies and Gentlemen, Please be standing for the Asian Cup Awards


Fresh from returning from Doha, our reliable reporter Brian decided to condense a week’s fun in the desert into a few awards.  So over to you Brian.

Having now finished our trip to Qatar, we thought that in order to kill a few hours while waiting for our flights that we would dish out some awards concerning the seven games that we saw. So, drum-rolls at the ready, and here goes..

The Heroes of the Week Award goes to Will & Claudia, who were the transport co-ordinators without whose help we would still wondering around outside any of the stadiums that we visited, wondering how on earth we were going to get back to the hotel. Continue reading

Day 7: Our work here is done


Day 7 and it is time for our intrepid duo to head back home after a week in the desert.  But not before just one more game – and what a game too – Australia v South Korea. Over to you Brian.

Our work here is nearly done. Today is the final day for us here in Doha, and it’s been great. The weather has been excellent, we’ve not managed to spend that much (mainly because there hasn’t been much that either of us has wanted to buy), and the football has been ok as well. Our last game of the trip is probably the biggest of the week; Australia v South Korea.

So, looking back on our week, a summary. Clearly much work needs to be done. The transport has been a bit chaotic at times, and if this was to be the structure put in place for 2022, then it will all go horribly wrong. The idea of a mono-rail, or any type of railway may help, but is this going to be restricted to Doha? I can not see the necessary stadiums being built in one city, so they are going to have to be spread around the country. In that case, how do people get around? We’ve already heard that the infrastructure of the country needs to improve, so with the tournament coming here, perhaps that will happen. Car hire will be at a premium, and the cost of that will go up for the month. Continue reading

Day 6: You can always rely on a Honda


While Dan and myself were doing our research for this trip, we both hunted around various bookshops (both actual shops and online) for guide books to the region, and in particular Doha & Qatar as a whole. I was quite surprised to find that there wasn’t a lot out there for this country, as there seemed to be a guide book for almost everywhere else on the planet. Dan eventually found a small guide book, but that was about it.

Now we know why. If you like shopping, then you will be fine. Prices out here are actually quite cheap compared to back home. For example, taxi fares are really quite inexpensive but agree a price before you get in, and even food and drink is quite reasonable. We have eaten in the hotel on one occasion, and that was expensive, but it was worth every penny. The big shopping malls (and they are big) will keep most keen shoppers entertained for several hours, which is lucky, as most stay open until mid-night. Try doing that at Lakeside.

However, if shopping is not your thing, then perhaps you are a beach person. Many hotels have a private beach, and so you spend your days getting a tan, or at least not doing very much. You may have to keep an eye out for jelly-fish, but there is generally a life guard on duty, and from our time here, the staff at our hotel are more than happy to assist in almost any way that they can. Continue reading

Day 5: Who needs one mascot when you can have five


Our men in the desert are desperatly trying to find things to do apart from the football in Doha.  But they are struggling.  It’s got so bad they had started having flashbacks to previous football tournaments.

There have been some interesting mascots for tournaments throughout the years. Of course there is the legendary World Cup Willie from 1966, which probably today wouldn’t get past any kind of scrutiny. There was the small orange called Naranjita from Spain 82, and what looked like a chilli wearing an out-sized sombrero for Mexico 86. Then of course, we had the red, white and green lego figure for Italia 90. As for the London Olympics next year, what on earth were they thinking? What I am trying to get across here is that mascots are everywhere for these kinds of tournaments, but what purpose do they actually serve?

It’s all very well having them, but for most people attending these things, they have no meaning whatsoever. I suppose they are mainly for kids, as they adorn shirts and other bits of merchandise. Oh hang on, we’ve been down this one before.

For this tournament, the organisers have gone to town and gone for a family of five mascots. Yes that’s right, five. There are five different venues for this competition, and I suppose that they have got a different one for each. Certainly the tickets for each venue are a different colour, so I would guess that is why there are so many. However for the World Cup, does this mean that if they have 12 venues, there are going to be 12 different mascots? That’s a whole team plus one sub. What kind of competition only allows one sub nowadays? The mascots are a family of Jerboas, which is an animal found in the Arabian desert, in case you were wondering. You learn something new every day. Continue reading

Day 2: Stoffers all over the world


Day two saw us watch one of the pre-tournament favourites, Japan and their opening game against Jordan. This shouldn’t have been a bad game, as it is 2nd v 11th in the Asian rankings. However, if we take the world rankings into account, then it is 29th v 104th, so there is a bit of a difference between the two teams. Japan are a known quantity; since hosting the World Cup in 2002, which was their second appearance in the finals, they have since appeared in 2006 and 2010, getting the group stage for the second time in their history last year. Japan have won this tournament three time in the past, and were semi-finalist four years ago. Jordan though, are a bit of a mystery to me, so I am going to be quite interested to see how they do. The Japanese though, have a few injury worries coming into this game, and almost all of them are in defence. This could be quite interesting.

For the second day, we have a new ground to visit. Today’s venue is the Qatar Sports Club which is, after last night’s problems, the nearest stadium to the hotel, and this is just a couple of miles away. This is also the site for the Qatar Open tennis, although they clearly don’t play on the same surface; that would be daft.

We picked up on this yesterday, but thought that it might just be an issue unique to the Al Gharafa Stadium, but it was the same today; there is no merchandise on sale. Continue reading

From Dagenham to Doha


Tonight the 15th Asian Cup will kick off in the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha in what is being viewed by most of the footballing world as a little sample of what to expect in 2022 when the FIFA World Cup rolls into town.  Obviously the whole country will have changed by then, none more so that the commercial districts of Doha, a city just a bit bigger than Leeds that is expected to host well over a million visitors for the tournament.  For the Asian Cup the visitors are expected hardly to make a dent in the available hotel rooms and restaurants in the vibrant city.

The other notable fact is that the tournament is being played in January.  On winning the bid for the tournament in 2007 (Qatar received 6 out of 10 possible votes, with Iran gaining 3 and India 1) the Asian Confederation had the choice to hold the tournament in January or July.  Obviously with average temperatures in the Summer over 40C it would be foolhardy to play the tournament then and so it was agreed to move it to January.  FIFA take note – “It would be foolhardy to play it in such heat”.

Khalifa International Stadium

The tournament is being played in five stadiums, four of which are in the capital city.  And due to this fact, it is a perfect opportunity to catch two matches in a day.  Now to us nothing could be more perfect than some Winter sunshine and two games of football in close proximity, well apart from a place that sold 50pence beers.  Two out of three of these were enough to tempt our men from Dagenham to book a suite at the Movenpick hotel for a week, buy their £3 tickets for as many games as they could and head off to bring us all the action from the first week of the tournament. So stay tuned for all of the inside track.