Lusail, Qatar – At Qatar’s largest soccer venue, Lusail Stadium, there was little doubt who referred to as the tunes: Argentina followers far outnumbered Saudi Arabia’s supporters as the 2 international locations’ males’s nationwide groups took on one another of their opening World Cup 2022 match.
From the metro station corridors to the stands contained in the stadium – whose design is impressed by the fanar lantern – it was a sea of blue and white as Argentinians and lots of the Albiceleste supporters burst into tune and chants of “Vamos Argentina” (Let’s go Argentina).
“Our followers are the perfect,” Mariano Alvarez, a fan from Rosario, the hometown of Argentinian famous person Lionel Messi, advised Al Jazeera. “I do know I’m biased however actually we don’t let cash or work cease us from travelling to help our workforce,” he stated.
“For us, soccer is a like faith … along with Christianity,” added the 52-year-old, who’s attending his second World Cup after Brazil in 2014.
Like hundreds of different Argentinians on the stadium, Alvarez needed to journey for practically 24 hours to achieve Qatar in a cumbersome journey that included transit in Spain.
In distinction, the Saudi fan figures pale compared regardless of Saudi Arabia being Qatar’s neighbour to the west and sharing a land border.
Along with those that flew in from Argentina, individuals from international locations akin to India, Pakistan, Egypt and Malaysia had been among the many enthusiastic crowd supporting Messi and his teammates.
As followers streamed in the direction of the practically 80,000-strong stadium, a Doha-based music group referred to as Qatar Mayyappada welcomed them with drums and percussion – facet by facet with a bunch of Argentina followers who had introduced their very own musical devices and audio system to uplift the group that gathered within the dozens round them.
“[Late Argentinian footballer Diego] Maradona and Messi unite the world,” 26-year-old Ashiq Siddiq, from India, advised Al Jazeera inside Legtaifiya metro station, the place he and different Argentina supporters had been chatting furiously in regards to the workforce’s formation and technique forward of the sport.
Messi’s ‘final likelihood’
The match in Qatar can be Messi’s fifth World Cup, and possible his final.
The 35-year-old, regarded by many because the world’s finest footballer, can be hoping to construct on Argentina’s Copa America triumph final yr and win the one trophy that has eluded him to date in his illustrious profession.
“That is the yr,” stated Alejandro Fronto, an Argentina fan who believes that is Messi’s finest likelihood to assist his workforce win the trophy. “Messi is not going to play once more after this in one other World Cup,” added Fronto.
“He can do it, I consider. The workforce is extra united than earlier tournaments. They simply received the Copa America final yr so there’s perception within the workforce.”
Fronti stated with a robust squad that additionally options the skills of gamers akin to Rodrigo De Paul and Angel De Maria, Argentina can be arduous to beat.
“I solely fear about Brazil”.
On how Tuesday’s encounter will unfold, an optimistic Fronti stated it will likely be “devastating” for Saudi Arabia, predicting Argentina will beat the six targets that England scored in opposition to Iran.
Saudi followers, nevertheless, didn’t appear nervous however had been hopeful their workforce would trigger an upset.
“It’s going to be 1-1,” Mohammed Shaks advised A Jazeera at Lusail Stadium, cracking a cheeky smile as his associates burst out laughing.
“Many individuals know Argentina, however Saudi Arabia is the perfect workforce in Asia … I’m telling, there can be a shock,” he stated.
Nevertheless, the 29-year-old, draped in a Qatari and Saudi flag, stated even when they lose, he’s simply glad to be at this recreation.
“I’ll no less than get to see Messi in Qatar, which is like my second residence,” he says, noting that many Saudis like him have household within the host nation with whom they’re staying.