The geography shifts abruptly as you walk from Bin Mansoura Metro Station to Grand Hamad Stadium. The skyscrapers of central Doha fade in the distance, minarets pierce the cloudless skies. The bristle of the city drowns in the suffocating quiet of the neighborhood, but for the tyre-screech of luxury cars that blurs through the near-empty road.
Just 20 kilometers off Corniche it seems further distant from the endless bustle of the World Cup-soaked Doha. From nowhere manifests the undecorated facade of the stadium, once Doha’s premier stadium and home to the Al-Arabi Sports Club, but now slumbering in the past glories, unstained by uber-modernity.
For the last one week, though, the calm has been shaken off. Swathes of policemen in black jackets and caps with slick automatics tucked in their waistbands prowl the locale. The beep of sirens intrude the quietude. On those days, an army of men and women in the yellow and green flock to the ground, as though for a pilgrimage.
Some of the shopkeepers were initially puzzled before they were told that the venue would be Brazil’s training ground for the World Cup. The Stadium and locality was paint-brushed a fresh identity: Brazil’s training ground, an address that would be tattooed forever.
It’s a good 30-minute walk for the fans. But that has not deterred their enthusiasm. “It’s far from where we are staying, we are allowed to watch the practice, but we will always be there,” says Felipe, who is from Sao Paulo. What surprised him and his friend Louise was the presence of non-Brazilian fans. “I never thought we had so many supporters in Asia. It’s overwhelming. On the first day, there was a two-kilometre long queue from the metro to the stadium. It was almost like we were at home,” he adds.
With drums and whistles, cutouts and flags, a river of yellow floods the road whenever they train. “People jumping and running behind the bus,” says Luciano Fontes of the media outlet Zero Fora. The enclosure for the press to watch the practice too was crowded, and apart from home-press, the rest were allotted a specific time to watch the practice.
The interiors of the stadium too have a Brazilian vibe. “There were miniature flags everywhere and photographs of the World Cup winning sides of the past, besides those of the legends, Pele, Socrates, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Romario. There were famous quotes of them, and some of the coach Tite too. Basically, motivational ones. Beside the locker, there are photographs of all the players, ” he says.