For the first time in 64 years, Wales have qualified for the FIFA World Cup™.
On their debut appearance in the finals, in 1958, the Dragons made it all the way to the quarter-finals before narrowly losing to eventual champions Brazil. The only goal scorer that day in Gothenburg was the legendary Pelé, who was just 17 years old.
Fast-forward more than six decades, and Wales are once again ready to take on the world’s best. And one man who cannot wait to see his countrymen in action in Qatar is Rhodri Williams, who has worked as a broadcaster and businessman in Doha for the last ten years.
Originally from Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, Williams presents football coverage for Al Kass Sports Channels and helps to run popular Doha restaurant, The Curry House. He previously worked for the BBC, ITV, Channel 5, Sky Sports and Setanta Sports in the UK.
The 54-year-old lives in West Bay with his wife, Oksana, and is looking forward to welcoming Gareth Bale and co, as Wales prepare to face England, the USA and Iran in Group B later this year.
What were your emotions when Wales defeated Ukraine in the qualifying play-off to secure their spot at Qatar 2022?
My father passed away in March last year and he was a huge sports fan. I felt him watching from wherever he is now and somehow giving inspirational power to our goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, who possibly had the game of his career that night. We were lucky, as Ukraine played brilliantly – but it went our way in the end. My overriding emotion was pride, while also thinking about my dad.
Wales fans are very passionate sports fans. What can we expect from Dragons supporters in Qatar?
They will come here and enjoy the full experience – including everything Qatar has to offer. I think it’s interesting with Wales because my generation never experienced us qualifying for anything. The younger generation think it’s the norm because in the last six years, we’ve qualified for two European Championships and now a World Cup. It really means so much to us to have qualified, as we’ve not been here since 1958. There’s even a slight level of expectation of how the team will do. Everyone is very excited and ready to have fun at this tournament.
What advice would you give to Wales fans travelling to Qatar?
Come and enjoy yourself, and just show the kind of respect you would show anywhere else. Enjoy what is laid on for you – which will be a lot – and just have a level of mindfulness for the region and its traditions. There are so many traditions here that are interesting, so I think it’s nice if people take the time to learn a little bit more about the culture here and experience it.
Wales will play all their matches at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium – how excited are you for the games?
I’m really looking forward to it. I was there for the Amir Cup final between Al Sadd and Al Arabi in 2020 – and it’s a fantastic stadium. These are all one-off games on an excellent playing surface, so hopefully Ahmad Bin Ali can become a shrine for Wales fans, where happy memories are made.
What are your expectations for Wales going into the tournament?
I feel we are capable of getting through the group. I think England will finish top of Group B. If we get to the last 16, I think we will play the Netherlands and probably go out of the tournament – that’s my prediction. It would be a huge achievement – but also a realistic one – to reach the knockout rounds.
Tell us more about your life in Qatar.
I first came out here in 2008 when I joined Al Jazeera Sport to do a show on the Beijing Olympics. After that, I came out from time to time, before moving here in 2012 to work for Al Kass and present coverage of the Qatar Stars League.
I really enjoy living here. Qatar is about half the size of Wales and nowhere is far from the sea. It’s a very diverse place and I think fans who come here for the World Cup will marvel at what they see. There are amazing beaches and so many incredible dining options. We have cuisine from everywhere. Some of my favourite meals have been at hidden, out-of-the-way places. I also love the golf courses out here. Both Education City and Doha Golf Club are wonderful courses and I’m grateful to spend time with friends there.