The Good and Bad of the Asian Cup… – updated

I really wish that I could only say good things about the Asian Cup but sadly it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. (Not even land of the blueberries). I took the time to calm down after the issue with not being able to get into the finals, however before jumping into the hot topic let’s start off with the good shall we?

Traffic:
At the stadiums, it was clear that police were doing their best in order to make sure that traffic wasn’t kept at a stand still. They really did a pretty good job even in areas like Westbay where the Qatar Sports Club is. They also managed crossing areas to make sure that people were safe when crossing the street.

Maintenance:
At one of the matches, I saw that the giant screen (jumbo-tron) was actually damaged, which was quickly repaired the next day. Very nice! I got the impression that they wanted to look good to the world!

Prices of tickets:
Nobody could deny that the prices of the tickets were VERY reasonable. It was great to see that they had tried to drive prices down in order to encourage people to come to the match!

Fan Zone:
It was great that they tried to create some fun festivities. They had games, freebies, and various booths from the sponsors that also had giveaways and games. Would have been nice if there was some food and seating areas to relax and enjoy the fun. The Fan Zone should have felt like a carnival or fair.

Decorations:
The lightings and decorations of Westbay were quite beautiful. I wished that Westbay ALWAYS looked like that. Imagine the tourists that would come.

Signage:
Although I wish there was more signage, I loved how they used different color flags represent the stadiums you are heading off to. (Yes I had to figure that out myself since it wasn’t mentioned anywhere). They also had stickers and signboards directing you towards the stadiums. It REALLY helped. I saw a sign that pointed to gharaffa stadium, followed the blue dots, then when I saw the blue ‘Game On’ flags on light polls, I knew I was near.

Now for the bad… hopefully my little post will be used by the olympic committee in order to make sure that future events are awesome!

Stadium entrance:
This was one of the most annoying parts. It was disorganized to the point that people (without tickets) were hanging outside of the the entrance of the stadium (this was the westbay stadium) and just hanging around. Police should have said, get a ticket (well I guess first they should have been selling tickets), or leave…

The Fanzone:
This is unbelievable but one of the days I attended, I was really shocked at how they were treating media. I was invited over by Samsung to check out the booth and since it was a cold day, arrived in my chocolate brown winter thobe. When I got to the entrance with one of ILQ’s forum members ‘Daisy’ to take pictures, they turned her away saying that she wasn’t on the list. It would have been nice if they were polite, but they were quite expressionless. Cold almost. I could understand if they would turn people away if the place was packed and people were begging to get in, but at that time it was empty! I explained that she was with me and they basically said ‘tough luck’. I looked to my right and saw around 5 people with cameras and video cameras (they were from various media sources), and they weren’t allowed in because they weren’t on the list. WHY DON’T THEY WANT PUBLICITY? I ended up calling someone over from the Samsung booth who came out and explained that I was invited. The security guard said ‘tough, she needs a ticket’. So the Samsung rep walked over the ticket booth and just bought her a ticket. (Great way to treat one of your MAIN sponsors!!). I asked him how much the ticket costs and he said 5QR. Wait a minute… they were holding us back in the cold, stopping journalists from covering the fanzone, all for a measly 5 riyals?? Ridiculous!

What’s even worse is that even though there weren’t many people, parking was STILL an issue! I forgot to mention that when I went over (I think it was 3pm) they wouldn’t let me in the gate to park saying it was full. I had to park at the Villaggio and walk to Aspire Park… Doesn’t make sense!

Parking:
Speaking of parking, at some stadiums, like the Rayyan and Gharaffa, I’m lucky that I didn’t damage my suspension because they made us all park on rocky ground. Couldn’t they have at LEAST cleaned up the land so that we had a parking spot NOT covered in rocks and mud?

Ticketing:
Ok now this was ridiculous. On countless occasions, friends would try to buy tickets online but only be greeted with the fact that tickets were sold out. At the stadiums themselves they were empty! That lead me to one conclusion, they were giving away too many free tickets!

During the Japan V Syria match some Saudi guys said they tried to get tickets to come to the match but were told that it was a sold out event. They were so friendly and really disappointed. When I got into the match myself, there was easily a quarter of the seats that were empty… Why weren’t they selling tickets to those seats??

Crowd Staff at Stadium:
Put simply, around half of the staff were rude. Unfriendly, no smiles, and had no clue what they were doing half the time. When you would ask them where your seat was, they would say “Anywhere”.

Another funny story is I had one of the manager of the volunteering at Gharaffa stadium come out to hand over some tickets to me. When we were passing through the security check point, guards held him back saying that he didn’t have a ticket. He showed his AFC staff badge and was told that it was too bad and he had to go all the way around the stadium to get in through another entrance where his ID could be properly checked…. they SAW him come out of the stadium and hand me the tickets…

Nobody knew about the entertainment events:
There was LOADS going on around Qatar. iLoveQatar.net was the only website that covered what was going on and we only knew what was happening because of some friends who worked at the AFC! They did no publicity to let everyone know what was going on at Katara, Souq Wagif, and the various cultural events in hotels. I don’t understand the purpose of holding these events if you’re not going to publicize! It’s FREE to publicize on sites like iLoveQatar!

Other stuff that didn’t make sense was that they spent a TON of money on Yalla Asian song, but they didn’t use it enough! I mean, why didn’t they play it more often, perhaps get the malls to play it, the radio station to play it more often.

It seemed to me that QBS radio didn’t really care either. I mean, they did make mentions but they didn’t get me excited about the Asian Cup. That should have been a trending topic for them (maybe QMedia wanted millions as usual just for a mention). Then again… I don’t really expect MUCH from QBS radio… you know what the BS stands for right?

What about giving the crowd something to use in order to cheer their team? I mean the Asian Cup committee must have spent a LOT of money, so why couldn’t they have passed out some flags (to ALL countries) to get the crowd excited and cheering?

Now for the BIG ONE.

Dear AFC, why did you have to ruin it in the end? Alright, despite issues and complaints, people were generally quite happy with the event! I arrived at around 5:20pm only see thousands of people stuck outside with NO explanation as to why they couldn’t get it. People actually stood in a que thinking the doors hadn’t opened yet! There was easily over 5,000 people that attended and were confused. I met people from all over the world and many came to my country just to see this final match. That night, I was so embarrassed for my country. Us Qatari’s, the ones that are known for our hospitality and caring, showed them a side that even ‘I’ had never seen before.

The crowd was calm for the size that it was. It didn’t make sense to me why they brought out the horses then riot police (there were no dogs by the way, that was just a rumor) (I saw no dogs by the way, but a poster below said that he did and that they were brought out after people started trying to jump the fence). Imagine if this was England. The mob would have started an all out war!

When I went to one of the gates, I asked the security guard what was going on and he explained that he didn’t know and was just ordered to not let anyone in. One Qatari guy even told me he felt sorry and wished he could do something but would get in trouble for letting anyone in.

One guy told me that he saw a heart breaking thing. An Iraqi family were together and the husband got in before they were about to shut the gate. The Iraqi woman explained that her husband was in and she and her young daughter just wanted to join him. They showed their tickets. The security guard said “that’s not my problem, get lost.” then slammed the gate shut which hit the young girl in the head. The little girl cried as the security guard just watched with no emotion.

That story reminded me of what happened at a Japan match where a friend who has asthma had his inhaler taken away from him because he might ‘throw it’. He explained that if he doesn’t have it, he could die from an asthma attack but the security at the check point didn’t want to have any of it. He then said that he would rather not go into the game than not have his inhaler and said he would leave but the security guard said “you can leave, but I still won’t give you back the inhaler’. It was only when he asked for a senior official that the inhaler was returned.

AFC you are hiring idiots to represent us! A security guard should have common sense! If a woman was concealing something under an abaya, would they have checked? No… nobody with an abaya on was checked.

Then dear AFC, you tried to do damage control. That’s fine. That’s actually expected. However damage control using LIES just makes things worse!

1) You issued a statement saying that there were a couple of thousand people and only 700 had tickets. NOBODY counted tickets. I personally walked from gate to gate and saw nearly everyone with tickets in their hands.

2) You claimed that the gates were closed at 6:05. Well I’ll leave it to people to watch the countless youtube videos. They closed it at 5:15-5:20.

3) They said that they asked people to come early. Well no they didn’t. Never, at any match, did they close the gates early as well. In FACT, if you look at the AFC website (not sure if it’s been updated already), it said the match started at 7:15 incorrectly!

Look the Asian Cup wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t that bad either. I’ve had some pretty messed up experiences in other countries, but… I guess I was just hoping that the people that the committee brought on to manage this would have been of a higher caliber. Inshallah the committee will learn from this experience so that the 2022 World Cup will go off without a hitch.

I also feel sorry for Japan. As people will probably remember the day they couldn’t get into a match that they PAID to get into rather than their win.

I’ll leave this post with a video of the view of the closing ceremony… or at least what I could see from the outside.

Update:
They did do something right today though and apologized to all the fans and offered refunds for people who fill out the form. You can find the form here.

You just know that Mr. Q’s blog is rumbling

I’m writing a blog post that I want to make sure is both fair and balanced about the AFC… recent… incidences… which have more than infuriated me compelled me to wait a few days to calm down before putting ‘pen to paper’.

Asian Cup 2011 Closing Ceremony

Tour of Westbay during Asian Cup

Hanging out with Samsung

So I was invited over by Samsung and Forbes Associates, to visit the Samsung booth over at the Asian Cup Fan Zone at Aspire park. I was quite excited, and honored, that they wanted Mr. Q to check out what they had to offer. I was already familiar with their fun apps (see http://blog.iloveqatar.net/2011/01/asian-cup-apps-and-other-fun-stuffs/ ) and didn’t really know what to expect from the booth itself.

I was greeted by some people from Samsung who had flown over from Korea for the next two weeks and they started to take me on a tour. They first wanted to show me their Galaxy Tab. Of course I didn’t mention the fact that I’m actually an iPad user, but I had to admit that I was always interested in the Galaxy Tab. It’s about half the size of the iPad, also quite thin, and runs off of Android. There’s one CRUCIAL difference though. It plays flash. I was told that with Flash running constantly that it would get a battery life of around 6 hours (but who runs flash constantly). The average battery life was 10-12 hours (nice!). I could definitely see people buying this because of its portability. They had this Q&A game on it that I was asked to play. (I scored 3/5 :( ) but got a nice little pair of blow up ‘sticks’. I was told that in Korea they bang them together while watching a match and it sure did make a loud noise!

I was then asked to do a little interview on camera where they asked me what I thought about Samsung. I explained that I was always a fan of Samsung products, my father loves their dual sim phone, and I used to almost exclusively use them for a period of time. (I love their Ultra series of phones. BRING THEM BACK SAMSUNG, I LOVED IT!). In fact, I was actually just thinking about the Samsung U100 recently ( picture here ) and wished they’d make a new one.

They then showed me their Shouting booth. You go into a room, select the country you are routing for and then scream your lungs out to support them! The best person (I think) wins a prize! After participating you get a horn as a gift.

They then have a set up for you to take a picture in front of a green screen so it looks like you’re with one of your favourite teams. I took a picture with the Qatari team (of course), and when finished, they printed it out, and put it in a picture frame that looked like the Galaxy Tab. I thought that it was quite awesome!

Basically with everything you participate in, you get a small gift to take home. It was very fun and the staff there were all having a fun time themselves. Anyway Samsung, thanks for inviting me to hang out, thanks for sponsoring the Asian Cup, and thanks for all the cool stuff you guys make! Now I wonder if the Samsung Qatar team are as cool as the Samsung Korea team.

Some pics! (click to enlarge)

Asian Cup apps and other fun stuff

I thought I’d share some fun stuff by various companies related to entertainment and events for the Asian Cup. If you know of any other companies doing anything, let me know and I’ll get it added here too.

Samsung have quite a number of things going on.

First up is the “Samsung Scouter” -
Samsung Scouter is an Android/Bada application which has been specially created for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 to provide real-time commentary on matches, tournament highlights and in-depth player performance analysis and comparison such as pass accuracy, ball possession and sprint speed. The mobile application can be downloaded from the Samsung Apps Store (www.samsungapps.com) for the duration of the tournament. (Is it on the Android store too?)

Facebook Promotion – “Be Proud, Support Your Country”
Samsung’s online promotion for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 is currently running on the Samsung Mobile MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Facebook community. It is a fan-centric competition that allows participants to submit messages cheering on their favorite teams playing in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011. Players who submit the seven best “cheers” will win a pair of return tickets to watch the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 Finals. To participate, please visit www.facebook.com/samsungmobilemena.

Samsung “Man of the Match” Presentation, “Fan of the Match” Event
At each game (in the stadium), a player selected by the AFC will receive the Samsung “Man of the Match” award, which recognizes outstanding performance and fair play.  In connection with this, “Fan of the Match”, a promotion event for the stadium audience and Samsung Galaxy Fan Café visitors will take place at all matches. Using SMS, participants guess who will become the Samsung “Man of the Match” player for each game, and prizes including an autographed official football will be given to selected winners.

Vodafone also has some stuff for people who want to stay in the know. If you go to www.vodafoneqatarfootball.com you’ll find a mobile app, mobile version of their SportzDeck and some other ways of keeping up to date with the latest scores. The sportz deck app is quite fun and detailed too!

So we’re on the 3rd day of the Asian Cup

Well we’re on the 3rd day of the Asian Cup and a lot has been going on! I thought that I’d put some stuff together!

Now the first day was all about the Fan Zone! First of all, let me warn you that I’m sure that parking is going to be a problem. Entrance is 15QR and you get to enjoy all the different fun and games inside. The first day we went though, it was free (nice surprise). That meant that the Jay Sean and Karl Wolf concert was absolutely free!

Click here for Pictures of the Fan Zone

A lot of people also turned out for the free concert. However it wasn’t all fun and games. There was hardly any crowd control as people were pushing and shoving (mosh pit) and the security were useless! (I’ll post a video later on showing how they just stood there).

Here’s a video of Jay Sean and Karl Wolf live in concert and singing Qatar’s Yalla Asian song.

Oh and our favourite Qatari comedian Mohd Kamal was the host!

A true supporter is one that’s there til the end

Now this is only my opinion so I hope that this won’t be a ‘I’m more of a fan than you are’ topic.

Let’s rewind a bit to the first match a couple of days ago between Qatar and Uzbekistan. Qatar was excited. The crowd was roaring. Flames spit out of the ground in Khalifa stadium and there was a fireworks display that looked to be MILES long and visible all the way from the Zig Zag towers.

People of all different nationalities in Qatar were all routing for Qatar.

The match starts.

The crowd is clapping, cheering, and drumming. For the first half, it’s just a giant party and it seems that the two countries are pretty event. However, GOAAAAL Uzbekistan scores against us. My heart sinks for a second. “It’s alright, there’s plenty of time left”, I tell myself. I pick up my phone to tweet “Don’t give up on Qatar yet!”. I noticed people tweeting that they are leaving. I look at the stadium seats and I see that sure enough, some people are leaving. “How can they leave at this time?” I think.

Sadly near the end, the Uzbeks score another goal. “It’s alright, 10 minutes left and it probably is enough for us to score one goal”, I hope. Looking at the crowd, I see event MORE empty seats. It’s a sad view.

5 minutes before the match and many have left. I start to thinking. How can a supporter or a true fan desert his team? You need to support your country in both the good times and the bad. I found myself empthazing with the team. Imagine.. the opposing team scoring a goal against you. You look up at the crowd only to see empty seats. People have given up on you. You feel deserted. All for what? To save time so that you don’t get stuck in a few minutes of traffic? What? So you you came for the fireworks and leave?

Someone actually said that it was embarassing. What’s embarassing is when you don’t have the courage to stand by the team you support. Reminds me of those people who always side with the winning team.

Let’s use the analogy of an army. Why fight for a people, who won’t be there for you when you need them the most. Why do some sports have cheerleaders? Qatar doesn’t have super sexy bikini clad babes on the side-lines with their pom poms cheering the team on. WE are the ones who are supposed to give our country support.

Qatar has given many people a better life, but more importantly it’s given everyone HOPE that this place will change everything in the region, the least you can do show some love :)

Oh and to everyone else, chillax, Qatar isn’t the only country in the world to have ever lost a match.

Good luck everyone! And no matter WHICH country you support, support them til the end.

Asian Cup Opening Ceremony Video!

Here’s a video by Daisy of the Opening Ceremony of the Asian Cup 2011!

Oh and if you want to view some pics, click here!

Asian Cup Qatar 2011 Fan Zone – All you need to know!

If it’s one thing we’ve learned from the Asian Games 2006, it’s that Qatar knows how to throw a party. So I’m sure that whether you’re from Korea, Japan, India, Jordan, or any of the other countries from the 16 countries who’s gotten this far, then you’ll want to know where the fun and games will be at.

Qatar’s promised that this will be THE best Fan Zone ever of any Asian Cup history.

Alright! So here’s what you need to know! The Asian Cup Fan Zone is going to open on the 6th until the 29th of January. It’s basically the place to hang out when you’re not watching match. You’ll find exhibits, attractions, a huge food court, concerts, and interactive games. During the evenings, there’ll be additional entertainment which includes a flame and music show, a virtual penalty shot simulator, street football pitches (yup! You so you can score goals yourself!), a games zone and an exercise area.

So what time do you need to be there? It opens from Sunday to Wednesday from 4pm-10pm and weekends from 10am to 10pm (that’s what I gathered from the QNA anyway).
Don’t forget! Follow me on twitter @iloveqatar if you want to receive live tweets while I’m at the Fan Zone. Another shout out to Samsung and Forbes for inviting me over. Samsung is one of the official sponsors of the Asain Cup 2011.

Here’s some important links to follow and fan!

Official AFC Asian Cup Facebook group

I Love Qatar Fan page

I ♥ Qatar group

Freedom of Expression

    Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the Qatari Government is a signatory of states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medias and regardless of any frontiers.

    The Emiri Decision Number 86 of the year 2007 on the establishment of the Doha Free Information Centre marked yet another step towards establishing a State of rights and freedom of speech. The decision stipulated that the Centre be a non-profit organization, headquartered in Doha City, and have the authority to establish other affiliated centres inside and outside Qatar. It is worth mentioning that His Highness the Emir issued a decision in 1998 annulling the ministry of information, giving birth to a new era of freedom of speech where censorship was removed from local media.