CPD FOOTBALL | THE BLOG | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

The Indian flavoured championship

AFC Asian Cup 2011 - Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

AFC Asian Cup 2011 - Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

The AFC Asian Cup 2011 is in full swing and the Asian continental championship has reached its knock-out stage. The tournament is hosted by Qatar, the host nation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. I had the opportunity to visit the Gulf nation and get a first-hand impression of the country, its culture and its football infrastructure.

My main aim to visit Qatar was of course to support our Indian national team at the AFC Asian Cup and to meet the players. The Indian team qualified for the finals after a gap of 27 years and we faced Asian giants Australia, Korea Republic and Bahrain. Our boys did a pretty good job although going down in all three matches. The Indian team earned a lot of respect from the international football fraternity and media for their fighting spirit and overall display.

[AFC ASIAN CUP 2011 PICTURE GALLERY – CLICK HERE]

It was my first visit to Qatar and its capital city Doha. I was expecting to reach a modern Arab city comparable to the likes of Dubai or Abu Dhabi. A city full of Skyscrapers, full of busy businessman running around, modern and developed… But I realised that Doha is far away from any comparison to its Arab neighbours, as soon as I made my way out of the international airport. It was more like entering an Indian city with Malayalam and Hindi being the main languages for the locals! You can survive in Doha, if you know one of these two languages! No need to know English or even some Arabic! So it was no surprise that the driver of the AFC Media Shuttle taking me from the airport to my hotel was from Kerala…

Doha is one big construction site with many new buildings, roads and more things in work. The city is growing, but a lot of things need to be done, before the small Gulf nation will be on-par with other major cities in the region. Traffic is another major concern in Doha, as the current chaotic system is not capable to handle the massive amount of cars, bikes and other vehicles. A public transport system needs to be implemented and new roads must be built to handle the huge amount of foreign visitors coming to Qatar in 2022.

It seems like Qataris have a huge passion for sports as you will see football stadiums and horse race tracks everywhere in Doha. The amount of football stadiums in the city of Doha is quite impressive! Just drive down a street and you’ll see a football stadium every 5 to 10 kilometres! These stadiums are small ones with a capacity of 15,000 to 25,000!

[AFC ASIAN CUP 2011 PICTURE GALLERY – CLICK HERE]

I was really impressed with the modern facilities at the ASPIRE Academy for Sports Excellence. The Qataris built world class stadiums, gyms and more to offer the best possible infrastructure to their local talents and to nurture them for future competitions in the world of sports. It would be great to see such a sports centre in India in the near future…

Anyway I was very disappointed to see the lack of interest by the Qataris in the AFC Asian Cup 2011! Witnessing all those stadiums and facilities, indicated to me that the Qataris must be very passionate about sports and such major events taking place in their country. But the AFC Asian Cup 2011 was a demonstration of how things could look like in 2022, when the whole world will shift its focus to Qatar. The disappointing average attendance at the AFC Asian Cup 2011 is something around 11,000! Qataris prefer to stay at home and to watch the matches on their television screens instead of going to the stadium. So it was not a big surprise to me, to see advertisement campaigns in the locals TV channels, asking the Qataris to go the stadiums and to support their team! And yes, the Qataris went to the stadiums – but only for the matches of their own national team, while ignoring the other matches and teams! There’s no real fan culture in Qatar and the locals prefer to keep quiet, while sitting in the stadium and watching the matches.

Our very own Team India fans were the positive surprise of the AFC Asian Cup 2011! Indians turned up in numbers to support our “Bhangra Boys” and created a sensational atmosphere throughout the India matches! I spoke to several foreign journalists about the fan culture at the Asian Cup and all of them shared one opinion: “You Indians rocked the tournament! The Indian fans were the best and they brought some football flavour to the Asian Cup!” The Indian fans braved the cold and rainy weather conditions to support the Indian team and even had the opportunity to cheer as the “Bhangra Boys” scored three goals at the tournament.

It will be interesting to see, how far Qatar and Qatari fans develop in the coming years and if they can solve some of the mentioned problems till the FIFA World Cup kick-offs in 2022! And let’s keep on supporting our very own Indian national team and let’s hope we can qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup! It would be a World Cup with India having a “home” advantage…

[VISIT MY AFC ASIAN CUP 2011 PICTURE GALLERY – JUST CLICK HERE]