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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Five beautiful off-the-pitch moments from the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021


The historic FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021 has been hailed a success.

Qatar hosted its first ever FIFA Arab Cup tournament this year with 16 Arab teams competing to win the title before Algeria came through to secure the trophy. 

The Arab league teams participated in the 19-day tournament at six World Cup stadiums: Al Bayt, Al Thumama stadium, Ahmad Bin Ali stadium, Education City stadium, 974 Stadium, and Al Janoub stadium.

Countries that competed in the tournament included: Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, and Sudan.

This year’s edition of the Arab Cup saw Algeria lift the all-important trophy, with Tunisia coming close behind and Qatar bagging third place.

Here are some of our favourite off-the-pitch moments from the tournament:

Record breaking matches 

With more than 63,000 spectators from different countries around the world, Qatar witnessed its biggest match in history when the Maroons took on the United Arab Emirates at the Al Bayt Stadium.

Read also: Newlyweds celebrate wedding at Egypt vs Algeria FIFA Arab Cup match

The exciting game saw Qatar net 5 goals against its regional football rivals to sail into the semi-finals.

The FIFA Arab Cup was also popular online. The Morocco vs Algeria match broke world records for being the most watched live streamed football match on YouTube. 

Almost two million people tuned in to watch beIN Sports’ live streaming of the game that saw Algeria beat Morocco after on penalties in a thrilling quarter-final match. 

According to Algerian SkyNews journalist, Sami Kasmi, this was the first time a live stream on Youtube surpassed 1.5 million views since 2005. 

Beautiful uniting of Arab anthems  

The FIFA Arab Cup 2021 tournament kicked off in Doha on 30 November with a spectacular ceremony at one of the World Cup 2022 stadiums.

The ceremony ended with a beautiful rendition that united national anthems from all 16 Arab League states into one track.

With the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine, it is no wonder the Palestinian anthem triggered a roaring response from thousands of fans attending the opening ceremony at Al Bayt stadium.

Palestine takes centre stage

On that note, despite a variety of fans from across the Arab world, it was clear to see Palestine had emerged as a constant theme throughout the tournament.

Social media users flooded popular platforms, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with images and videos showcasing moments in which team players and fans showed support for Palestine through Pro-Palestine chants, including “Free Palestine” and “Jerusalem is Arab”.

Read also: United Cause: How Palestine has taken centre stage at the FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar

On several occasions, the now FIFA Arab Cup winning team Algeria was spotted celebrating its victories by raising the flag of Palestine, including at the closing ceremony on Saturday.

Notably, Algerian footballers also took a bold stance at a side match that brought together football legends for a friendly game ahead of the finals. Due to the participation of an Israeli at the match, the players withdrew in support of Palestine.

Off the pitch, Algeria’s fans were spotted waving Palestinian and Algerian flags while donning the Palestinian keffiyeh, a symbolic scarf that represents resistance in the face of Israeli occupation and apartheid. 

In another instance of Palestinian solidarity at the tournament in Qatar, images of a fan wearing the traditional Qatari white thobe with a keffiyeh covering his head during the Qatar-UAE match also made the rounds on social media. 

One user shared a side-profile picture showing “Free Palestine” written on her face, while other videos showed how dozens of Algerian fans gathered to chant for Palestine during post-match celebrations. 

Football passion in children

Children of all ages were able to safely join thousands of football fans at World Cup stadiums to watch the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 tournament.

In one adorable instance that went viral online, a young Jordanian boy was seen defending his team during a friendly encounter with a Saudi journalist at the match between Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

In the video, the man asked him “who do you think victory is for, Saudi Arabia or Jordan?”

The boy passionately responded yelling: “It is for us Jordan, for Jordan! Long live Jordan.

“Victory is ours!”

In another incident of beautiful sportsmanship, a young Qatari boy had one thought on his mind after a crushing 5-0 defeat for the UAE. 

In a TV interview after the match, the boy told a news reporter that while he was happy for the great performance, “the most important thing that our Emirati brothers don’t get upset with us.”

Keeping it clean

While some reports of vandalism was reported during the event, videos also emerged showing fans taking the initiative to clean up after matches. The move was widely hailed as a beautiful show of community to keep all the new, word-class stadiums clean and preserved for fans to enjoy.

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