World Cup a treat for Singaporeans in Qatar
DOHA - On the pitch at the Education City Stadium on Monday night were Premier League stars Son Heung-min, Thomas Partey and Jordan Ayew. Sharing it with them was a 12-year-old Singaporean boy.
Arfan Amin, whose family has lived in Qatar since 2014, was one of six youngsters who held the South Korean flag up as players from both the Asian side and their opponents Ghana lined up on the pitch for their national anthems and customary handshakes before the kick-off in their Group H game last Monday.
Arfan was also a flag-bearer for Denmark when they played Australia at the Al Janoub Stadium last Wednesday.
His father Amin Norhaizad said Arfan was selected through being part of an international school as well as the Paris Saint-Germain academy in Qatar.
The 43-year-old, who works in aviation, said: “When Fifa announced it was looking for flag-bearers among some of the kids here about three months ago, he was very much looking forward to the possibility of being picked.
“My wife and I told him if he gets it, then it is his rezeki (good fortune) and if he doesn’t, it is fine. As it turns out, he was selected twice. So we were delighted.”
Mr Amin and his family are among more than 300 Singaporeans based in Qatar. An avid football fan, he even hosted local football legend Fandi Ahmad and other Singapore national team officials at his home when the Lions played an international friendly match there in 2017.
He is one of the many who are thrilled that football’s showpiece has arrived on their doorstep.
As Qatari residents, they are able to purchase tickets to games for as low as 40 Qatari riyal (S$14.80).
Mr Haqeem Nasser, another Singaporean, was among those in the stands at the Khalifa International Stadium to catch Japan’s sensational 2-1 victory over four-time champions Germany.
“The match was exciting and towards the end the whole stadium was (rooting for) Japan. The crowd was amazing,” said the 37-year-old, who also works in aviation.
“Life in Qatar is pleasant. There’s a lot of space, especially with me having a large family,” said Mr Haqeem, who has six children aged between two months and eight years.
“In all countries, there are ups and downs... but once you get past some inconveniences, (Qatar) is definitely a very nice place to stay. It’s very safe here.”
The World Cup has been a boon even to Singaporeans here who are not football fans.
Mr Lim Yee Min, 32, co-founder of bubble tea business Tabiboba, said it has four booths at World Cup-related venues – near Al Bayt Stadium, Stadium 974, Lusail Boulevard and Doha Festival City.
He said the event gives his firm valuable exposure. He and business partner Tan Yan Shan opened their first outlet in Al Sadd in February 2020 and after riding out challenges stemming from the pandemic, they now have eight outlets and close to 100 staff.
Their drinks have proved to be a hit with both migrant workers and expatriates from East Asia – where bubble tea is commonly found – as well as with the Arab community. He was even hired to set up a fruit tea booth at the England team’s camp in Al Wakrah for the players.
“Even the (Qatari) royal family ordered from us, and we had to (deliver) to the palace,” said Mr Lim. “That was an honour for us.”