Doha, Qatar – On Friday nights, Souq Waqif – Qatar’s old-style all-purpose market that also serves as the country’s central tourist attraction – brings together people from all walks of life, dozens of different nationalities and varying interests for a unique mix of colour and noise.
But when the country plays host to a football tournament – be it the world’s biggest sporting event such as the FIFA World Cup or a regional championship – the excitement reaches a fever pitch.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
On the eve of the final of the ongoing AFC Asian Cup 2023, the famous marketplace in the heart of Doha was the marching ground of football fans of both teams vying for the continental crown in Saturday’s final at Lusail Stadium.
Passionate supporters of an-Nashama – the gentlemen, as Jordan’s football team is lovingly known – gathered in a big circle to sing traditional songs and dance to the beat of their own tune.
“They are saying the team is like an agal [a traditional black cord that is worn by men in the Middle East as part of their headdress] to them and they wear this as a crown and with immense pride,” Waed Dolaat, a Jordan fan who was watching on from a distance, told Al Jazeera.
Dolaat and her three children, Mahmoud, Ahmed and Taiba, have travelled to Qatar to support their team in their quest for a historic first Asian Cup crown.
The fact that Jordan face Qatar in the final brings excitement and relief for the Dolaat family.
“We have come here with great hope that our team will win, but even if they don’t we won’t be bitterly disappointed as we like Qatar as well,” she said.
As if on cue, the crowd turned their attention towards the opponents.
“It’s better to have family or friends [in the final] instead of a stranger,” the men sang.
Mahmoud, the 10-year-old, harboured a fear that his team may feel the heat of playing in front of tens of thousands of Qatar supporters.
“I hope they don’t feel the pressure and I hope the referee is fair,” he quipped.
For fans of Qatar, the final brings back memories from four years ago when they went against all odds to lift their maiden Asian Cup trophy in the UAE.
“I started following this team after the Asian Cup win in 2019,” Abdullah Qahtani told Al Jazeera as Jordanians pranced around Souq Waqif from one end to the other.
Qahtani praised Qatar’s newly-appointed coach Marquez Lopez and the players for turning their fortunes around after a poor run at the home World Cup more than a year ago.
“The al-Annabi will win tonight and we will drive all over Qatar to celebrate – from Lusail to Katara and Souq Waqif,” he said.
While the younger generation will be out on the streets, the older fans are likely to watch from the comfort of their homes.
Special arrangements will be made at every Qatari home’s majlis – an area in a house or a separate building connected to the house which is used for all sorts of gatherings, from daily lounging to more important events by the men of the household.
Bigger screens will make way for smaller ones, a wide range of snacks and hot beverages will be served and close-knit groups of friends and family members.
Should Qatar win, celebrations are likely to last until the early hours of the morning.
Despite being the home team, al-Annabi will have to put up with the clamour of thousands of an-Nashama fans who either live in Qatar or have travelled from all over the world to watch the game at Lusail.
Mohammed and Yazeedi Alshobaki have made a 600km (372 miles) journey from Riyadh to back the young men who bring them “immense joy”.
“The team has a special talent, and when they combine it with the will to fight on the pitch to bring joy to the people of Jordan, it makes them champions in our eyes,” Mohammed said.
The brothers do not have tickets to the final but they came to Doha anyway to soak up the atmosphere.
“We have heard the champions’ parade is going to be in Lusail, so we will be there – waiting to see the boys emerge from the stadium as champions of Asia,” Yazeedi said.