A festive atmosphere prevailed around the country after the Qatar national football team defeated the UAE on Tuesday to qualify for the Asian Cup final for the first time. Thousands of Qataris and expatriates took to the streets of Doha and other places -- as well to social media -- to celebrate the occasion.
The victory was particularly special as the Qatari team -- Al Annabi -- emerged victorious despite hostile conditions in the UAE -- one of the four countries that imposed the unjust blockade on Qatar back in June 2017. Fans had gathered at places such as Souq Waqif and Katara -- the Cultural Village, among others, in large numbers to watch the semifinal live on giant screens.
Fans celebrating on the Corniche. PICTURE: AFP
At Souq Waqif, Qataris, alongside hundreds of fans from other countries -- including Egypt, France, Jordan and Algeria, watched the match intently. At first the crowd were nervously quiet but as Qatar's dominance became apparent, the fans become much noisier.
Qataris danced through the half-time break with their team 2-0 in front, and in the second half cheered every block and tackle as "Al Annabi (the Maroons)" fought to hold on to their lead.
Fans celebrating on the Corniche. PICTURE: Reuters
The final whistle saw the start of huge celebrations at the Souq, with more music and dance. "Congratulations! Congratulations! They deserve it," said one unnamed jubilant Qatari immediately after. "The Qatari people and the residents deserve it. "We've hit them with four goals."
He added that the victory was for the country's leaders, including His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Nearby, an excited Algerian, Karim, said Qatar should now beat Japan in Friday's final. "It's very fair, they gave a great performance, they deserve it." TV networks broadcast clippings of the celebrations from various parts of Doha, including Katara, Aspire Park and Souq Waqif.
Fans celebrate Qatar's victory at Katara. PICTURE: Jayaram
Traffic along the Doha Corniche was jammed bumper-to-bumper with fans celebrating the victory, many honking horns or waving Qatari flags from car roofs.
A Qatari celebrating the victory said the result was much "sweeter" because of the opposition. People were keen to express their joy and pride in various ways, including waving the Qatari flag and chanting slogans of support, while others started to dance to the tune of national songs.
A massive crowd had gathered at Souq Waqif to watch the match. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
There were also a plethora of congratulatory messages -- from ministers and other dignitaries to common citizens and residents -- on social media. Sports experts and analysts agreed that the Qatari team deserved to qualify for the final of the Asian Cup due to their impressive performance so far, especially in the semifinal, thanks to the strategy of Spanish coach Felix Sanchez and the fighting spirit of the Qatari heroes against the Emirati team. (With inputs from agencies)