On Sunday, November 20 at 5pm (CET), the first whistle at the football World Cup was blown by the referee. In the opening match, the Qatari national team clashed with Ecuador. Earlier, the opening ceremony took place. Although it lacked big stars, it was still very impressive.
The arena for the first day of the World Cup, which featured only one match, was Al Bayt Stadium in Al-Chaur. As is usual with major sporting events, before the main part of the competition begins, the event must first be officially opened. In Qatar, they did it with a bang, as the ceremony proved to be one to please. Some of the biggest stars in world music were absent from the event, with popular singers Dua Lipa, Shakira and Alicia Keys having previously opted out of the show, as well as big football fan Rod Steward, who turned down a lucrative paycheck.
The Qataris, as is their wont, were not overly concerned about this. A replacement was provided by... Morgan Freeman, whose soothing, low voice is probably familiar to everyone. The actor on stage talked about passion for football and the host country. He was then joined by a youtuber with a disability, Ghanim Al Muftah, who is an ambassador for the World Cup. The artistic part then began. The stadium was filled with dancers who performed folk choreography accompanied by popular fan chants. Later, the mascots of previous tournaments entered the pitch and excerpts from previous championship anthems were performed.
Just before the end, the official song of this year's tournament, 'Dreamers', was performed by Jungkook from South Korean boy band BTS, and Qatari Fahad Al Kubaisi. The whole event was topped off with a fireworks display. A few dozen minutes later, the first official match of the championship began, Qatar versus Ecuador. Just before the whistle blew, FIFA chief Gianni Infantino, who has been committing successive gaffes in recent times, gave a speech. He began in Arabic and then greeted the audience in Spanish, which caused both applause and booing coming from the stands.
The game itself started with quite a bit of controversy. In the 3rd minute, Enner Valencia headed the ball into the net, and it was 1-0 for Ecuador. The joy of the players did not last long, however, as the goal was cancelled after VAR referees decided that it was an offside. There was consternation, as the footage presented by the video production showed that there could have been no offside. It was only after a long while that a shot has shownthat Michael Estrada was minimally offside, at the moment when he was fighting for the ball with the goalkeeper. It left a sour taste in viewers' mouths, though.
The Ecuadorians were not too concerned about the turn of events and continued to do their thing. In the 15th minute, Valencia scored a goal from a penalty kick, after an unfortunate intervention by Qatar's goalkeeper. The same player set the match's score in the 31st minute. The entire match was dictated by the South American players, with the hosts being the inferior team. The Ecuadorians, who were, after all, in the minority, created a far better atmosphere at Al Bayt Stadium, which was overcrowded with 67,000 spectators. Qatari fans began to leave the venue in crowds before the end of the match.
Further football excitement today. At 14:00 the England - Iran match kicks off at Khalifa International Stadium, then at 17:00 Senegal face the Netherlands at Al Thumama Stadium, and at 20:00 the USA play against Wales. The arena for the footballers' clash will be Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.