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Qatari girl catches football fever as country prepares for showpiece

Budding footballer one of the first to volunteer for Asian Cup

Reem Al Habshi
Image Credit: M. Satya Narayan /Gulf News
Reem Al Habshi
Gulf News

Doha: Ever since Qatar's name appeared on the paper pulled out by Fifa President Sepp Blatter in December last year, confirming the peninsula as the 2022 World Cup host, football has become inseparable from the daily life of citizens here.

It means different things for different Qataris but right from the teenagers who dream of playing in the 2022 World Cup to those that are expecting a boost in their business or just the sheer fun of watching or being part of one of the world's biggest spectacles, life in general has taken a positive turn.

One such youngster who is looking to a huge change in her life is Reem Al Habshi. Reem is a constant figure at the media conferences and at the Main Media Centre at the Asian Cup being held here as she assists as a volunteer, but the 22-year-old is in fact a budding footballer. "I play as a defender and very soon we are going to have a national camp," said Reem, who was one of the first to volunteer for the Asian Cup.

Reem's brothers also play but she picked up the basics at university. "The Qatar Women's Sports Committee (QWSC) has been encouraging us and that is how I got into the game," she said. "Her Highness Shaikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned set up the QWSC and since then many of my friends have taken up different sport. I have always liked football," Reem said.

Commenting on the Qatar national team who lost to Japan in the quarterfinals, Reem said, "I think they really played very well. They made us proud and maybe with a little bit of luck the result would have been in our favour."

Unforgettable moment

"We will never forget December 2 last year when we all celebrated Fifa naming us as the hosts of the 2022 World Cup. It made us so proud," she said.

"Before, people did not know Doha and used to refer to it as a city near Dubai. Now I think the whole world will know about Doha and maybe soon it will be the other way round," Reem said. While many in the West are yet to come to terms with Qatar winning the bid to stage the 2022 World Cup, Qatar's sporting culture is gaining ground. Reem said: "My father worked with the police and he has always encouraged me to play games and take part in extra-curricular activities".

"My experience here has been very interesting and exciting. I have been watching how different journalists from different countries pose questions on so many aspects of the game. The media field looks very interesting and hopefully I will pursue it," said Reem.

Reem is just one of the many Qataris revelling in their country's newly-acquired status as a Cup host.