Donning a t-shirt with the words ‘Stadium Hopping Day - Watching 4 Matches’ printed in bold, a longtime resident of Qatar watched four football matches of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in a single day, highlighting the advantages of a compact tournament. The feat was achieved by John Desa last Wednesday, November 23.
Asked about the unique accomplishment and whether it qualifies for a Guinness World Record, Desa told Gulf Times: “I don’t know whether it is a Guinness World Record or not, but I always wanted to attend World Cup matches but that did not materialise until Qatar hosted the World Cup. I just wanted to make it special and the compact nature of the Qatar 2022 World Cup helped me realise it.”
Desa has been in Qatar for the last 37 years. He works for QatarEnergy and is the secretary for football, hockey and carrom at the Indian Sports Centre, which is under the aegis of the Indian embassy. He is also known as an active sportsman and a social activist. According to Desa, he had made some preparations to go about his mission. “Being a longtime resident of the country helped me as I am familiar with the locations and roads. I visited the stadiums well in advance to understand the available parking slots and the easiest way to enter and exit the stadiums. My only worry was the possibility of a traffic jam in between, especially while coming back from Al Bayt Stadium. But I was fortunate to reach the stadium well on time for the 4pm match,” he explained.
“It took me over 15 hours to complete the whole hopping mission. I avoided the designated parking facilities and parked my car a bit far away and walked to the stadiums. This way, I could avoid any delay at the parking facilities but had to walk more. It helped me realise my dream and reach all the four stadiums and watch all the matches in a single day,” he explained.
Desa did not opt for any shorter route but took the longest one, starting from Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. He started with the 1pm match at Al Bayt Stadium where Croatia and Morocco played out a goalless draw, before heading to Khalifa International Stadium for the 4pm match to watch Japan stun Germany 2-1. After that, he drove to Al Thumama Stadium to watch Spain put seven goals past Costa Rica and then headed to Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium for the match between Belgium and Canada, which the former won 1-0.
Desa said he would move to the exit of the stadium a few minutes before every match ended and would rush out before all others, forgoing the added-on time in most cases. “Then I would dart towards my car, parked far away from the stadium, and 'jumpstart' to my next destination. My drive from Al Bayt to Khalifa International Stadium was the longest and I barely managed to reach the stadium before the match. However, I could reach the other two stadiums well on time,” he recalled.
Desa also pointed out that he deliberately took the longest route to highlight the compactness of the tournament. “At any other World Cup, the matches are played in different cities and to attend all the matches of a day is unthinkable. The compact nature of the Qatar World Cup is a great boon for football enthusiasts to attend more matches on the same day," he added.