Skip to main content

Qatar enjoy rare respite from high pressure World Cup isolation camp

National pride: Qatar defender Abdelkarim Hassan greets fans
— Doha (AFP)

Qatar's World Cup squad trained on home territory for the first time in four months Sunday as they seek to overcome some nervy displays in preparatory matches.

Hundreds of fans, mainly migrant workers, turned out to see the players make their rare appearance in a Doha stadium after being kept under wraps at camps in Spain and Austria.

Qatar, which has spent billions of dollars on new stadiums for the first World Cup in an Arab country, is desperate to see the side get past the first round group against Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador.

But the national team, who will make their World Cup debut against Ecuador on November 20, lost 3-0 to Croatia's under 23 team, 2-0 to Canada and this week drew 2-2 with Chile in their last three games.

"We are fully aware of the need to develop certain tactical and technical aspects that didn't unfold as we wanted," said coach Felix Sanchez.

"And we are working to correct the errors that were apparent," added Sanchez, who will take the team back into more weeks of isolation on Wednesday when they head back to his native Spain.

The players remained upbeat despite the disappointing results and being kept away from their Qatari homes.

"I think we needed this long period without the pressure that we feel here, I think all the players are ready," said midfielder Assim Madibo, who has more than 35 caps.

Madibo also acknowledged that there were "details" to correct but believed the camps were a success.

"We played a lot of games and a lot of training sessions, we boosted our body fitness," he said.

"We miss our families. I miss my family but we are happy to be back," said French-born defensive midfielder Karim Boudiaf, who has more than 110 appearances to his name.

Boudiaf acknowledged the battle that Qatar will face in Group A.

"We know that the World Cup is a very difficult competition. Our group is also tough.

"We have Senegal, Holland and Ecuador and they are very difficult teams. But we are a good team and anything is possible in football."

All said it had been a boost to play in front of a home crowd after the empty stadiums in Europe for most of their recent games.

"Today in the open training session we saw the fans supporting us and that's proof that they motivate us to give double our capacity," said Madibo.

While Qatar has faced criticism abroad for its labour rights record and the environmental fallout from the tournament, their fans are committed to the cause.

Rapjael Kamasa said Qatar deserved its place hosting the landmark tournament.

"It's been hosted in Europe, it's been hosted in South America, it's been hosted in Africa, it's been hosted almost everywhere and an Arab country hosting it is a good thing," said Kamasa as he watched the training session.