VIDEO: Qatar set to open Middle East’s first football World Cup before leaders, fans


Qatar fans outside the stadium before the match in Doha on Sunday. Reuters

Qatar prepared on Sunday to open the Middle East’s first FIFA World Cup before global leaders and soccer fans now pouring into the Gulf state.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai arrived in Doha for the World Cup opening ceremony.

Regardless of the outcome of Qatar versus Ecuador on the pitch, Doha already has drawn Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to the opening ceremony and inaugural match of the tournament.

Qatar’s state-run news agency announced Prince Mohammed’s presence in the country, as well as other world leaders. It said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Rwandan President Paul Kagame had arrived in Doha.

Kuwait’s crown prince also arrived, along with the director-general of the World Health Organisation and Djibouti’s president. Meanwhile, Iran sent just its minister of youth and sports.

At Al Bayt Stadium, people began filing inside, including Qatari supporters in crisp white thobes and women in black abayas. A troupe performed a sword dance.

Onstage, singer Jungkook of K-pop boy band BTS will perform a new tournament song, alongside Qatari singer Fahad Al Kubaisi.

The Gulf state’s Deputy Prime Minister Khalid Al Attiyah, in remarks on state media, said Qatar was reaping benefits of years of “hard work and sound planning.”


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