Doha, Qatar – Euphoric crowds lined the Qatari capital’s Corniche to welcome the national football team home after it won the AFC Asian Cup final after a thrilling campaign.
In an historic and decisive victory, Qatar won 3-1 over Japan in a tournament that saw them defeat both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), two countries that are currently part of the quartet blockading Qatar since June 2017.
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The team, affectionately known as the Maroons, touched down at Doha’s Old Airport at 16:00 GMT and was welcomed by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who had just wrapped up his Asia tour.
The team arrived via Oman as direct flights between Qatar and Asian Cup host, the UAE, remain banned due to the nearly two-year blockade imposed on Doha by its Gulf neighbours.
Families, young men and women drove along the seaside road, sitting on car roofs or hanging out the windows, waving the Qatari flag. An elaborate fireworks display filled the night sky as the crowds waited for the team to arrive.
As the team’s flower-covered bus finally made its way along the Corniche, screams and cheers filled the air as fans threw flags and flowers.
Fans tried to get as close as possible to the victory bus, shouting “Qatar, Qatar” and chanting their favourite player’s names. The team raised the silver Asian Cup trophy for the crowd.
Al Jazeera spoke to a cross-section of the fans who came to take part in the historic celebration.
Arjun, 42 from Nepal
“I am very happy Qatar won the Asian final. They played beautifully, it was a very good game. I watched it at the Sheraton Park.”
Osama al-Sheikh, 17 from Qatar
“I am delighted. I watched the game at the Mall of Qatar and stayed out celebrating late. By the time I got home, my voice was gone. This football sends a great message to all of the Arabs, especially to the UAE. God is with us. We are victorious in all other aspects like our manners and professionalism.”
Mustafa Hamed, 59 from Egypt
“I have been in Qatar for 28 years and I am still on cloud nine from yesterday. My family and I were also here on the Corniche after the final on Friday and today we’ve been here since 4pm to continue celebrating. I congratulate his highness Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and all of the Qatari people.”
Ahmad Amer Saif al-Marghoubi, 61, from Oman
“I have been in Qatar for 35 years. There are no words to describe how happy I am. The Qataris are our brothers. I watched the match at home and when the team scored the first goal my heart was about to burst from joy. My sons play football here at the Rayyan and Shaniya clubs. I also used to play football at a club in Belgium during my youth. We Omanis supported Qatar in the final because they are our brothers, Qatar is dear to our hearts. This victory is for all of the Arab Gulf states – for the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Bahrainis, the Kuwaitis and the Omanis.”
“I congratulate the Qatari people on this occasion of winning the Asian cup final. It was not an easy task but we managed to overcome the challenges in a positive way. Our happiness is tremendous. This is the happiest moment of our lives.”
Sheikha, Yara, Mariam and Maya al-Jeda, 16
“It was a momentous event. We are so proud of our national team and what they accomplished, especially in light of this blockade. They won in front of the Emirati fans. I don’t usually watch football but of course, with the national team, it’s different. We’re all behind them.
We watched the first half of the game at home with my family and the second half at a public screening in Bidda Park. It was such a lovely feeling to see Qataris and expatriates supporting and celebrating the national football team. We are especially grateful to the Omani people, who stood by us and supported us in the UAE since we are banned from entering that country.
The football team represented the Qatari people in such an ethical and principled way. The happiness of people here cannot be contained. We are hopeful that in the upcoming World Cup, we will have a good campaign.
To see our team reach the final and win and come home with the trophy is hugely rewarding.”