Tunis, Tunisia – Companies closed so early on Tuesday in Tunis, it’d as effectively have been a public vacation.
The explanation was none aside from the opening match of the Eagles of Carthage, as Tunisia’s soccer group are identified, within the Qatar World Cup marketing campaign in opposition to Denmark.
An hour earlier than the 2pm (13:00 GMT) kickoff, Tunisians had been surprised – like the remainder of the world – to see Saudi Arabia have a good time one of many greatest upsets within the event’s historical past by beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina 2-1.
The shock win raised hopes amongst Tunisians that their group, ranked 30th on this planet, may additionally land a shock blow to their opponents, who occupy the 10th place in FIFA’s rankings.
“It’s the most important shock of the World Cup to this point,” Amine, a pupil who like many others within the capital headed out to look at Tunisia play, mentioned of Saudi Arabia’s victory.
Half an hour earlier than kickoff, the streets had been busy however automobile visitors was fast-moving. Taxi Jamaiya, the yellow minibuses that ferry largely working-class individuals round, had been racing because the clock ticked on. On the radio, soccer pundits spoke in an pressing tone about formation and technique.
Cafés and bars rapidly full of patrons. Most locations had been standing-room solely. The partitions of many premises echoed to the sound of soccer chanting in opposition to the insistent drumming on the normal tambours.
With their economic system in a tailspin amid a value of dwelling disaster, shortages of primary items and hovering unemployment, Tunisians should not have a lot to cheer about today – however the sight of the group stepping onto the Training Metropolis Stadium was sufficient to ship waves of pleasure roaring by the busy industrial La Fayette district.
As the sport started, a nervous silence took over, interrupted by gasps of delighted shock each time Tunisia threatened to attain a aim.
Half-time discovered each groups goalless, and inside a Chabbi “salon de thé” (working class tea home), the air was thick with cigarette and shisha smoke. and the sound system belts out fashionable songs which have develop into synonymous with the matches of the nationwide group.
Regardless of the meals shortages which have blighted the nation this yr, the house owners did their greatest to maintain issues going: Sugar was out there for patrons to take with espresso, whereas the milk for his or her cappuccinos got here from a can.
Deep into the second half, and it was nonetheless nil all. Denmark scored, however the anguish was short-lived because the aim was disallowed as an offside violation. Then, it was eyes glued to the display once more and deep focus as followers prayed for Tunisia to make it past the teams’ stage for the primary time of their sixth look at a World Cup.
An emotional rollercoaster, the high-octane match noticed Tunisia play very effectively – however Denmark was harmful, too.
Within the 67th minute, a visibly drained Anis Slimane was substituted by Naim Sliti. Followers cheered on.
“He’s an attacking participant, in order that’s why everybody’s joyful!” mentioned Mohammed, who’s on the town for a enterprise start-up coaching course.
“Tunisia are enjoying very well and in opposition to a very robust group,” he added.
There have been extra cheers within the 80th minute as offensive midfielder Hannibal Mejbri additionally got here.
“He’s a sport changer,” mentioned the optimistic Mohammed.
Nonetheless, nothing modified and the ultimate whistle discovered each groups stage. However for the Tunisian followers, and the Tunisian gamers celebrating in Doha, it felt like a victory.
Now, their focus was on the third group match on November 29 in opposition to reigning champions and former colonial energy France. Or, as Mohammed laughed, “the outdated oppressor”.