Nation journalist Kwalimwa fulfils World Cup dream in Qatar

Nation journalist David Kwalimwa

Nation journalist David Kwalimwa enjoys watching the Fifa World Cup match between Belgium and Morocco at Al Thumam Stadium in Doha, Qatar on November 28, 2022.

Photo credit: David Kwalimwa | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Both of Morocco's goals were celebrated for almost two minutes, with cheers, hugs, chants, bullish songs among the supporters, while a section of Belgium fans could not hold back their tears at the final whistle

In Doha

As I approached the Al Thumam stadium in Doha to watch my first ever Fifa World Cup game, a man who appeared in his early twenties approached me with an offer.

"Habibi (my dear) please sell me your (match) ticket," he said, with a tone of desperation.

I was in the company of my colleagues Ali Hassan, a veteran broadcaster at Radio Maisha, and K24 Sports Editor Abuller Mohammed.

Determined, the chap, donning a grey tee shirt and blue rugged jeans, paced with us for a few steps and made his opening offer.

"I will give you 500 (US) dollars Habibi."

And for good measure, he reached out to his hind pocket and pulled out a couple of Qatari Riyal 100 denomination notes.

"No, thank you. I cannot sell this," I responded with a smile.

The response cut him off instantly.

For the record, I was never going to sell the ticket I was holding. At any cost. Why?

Watching and covering a Fifa World Cup match is every sports journalists dream.

During my eight-year stay at the Nation Media Group, I've been privileged  to cover a number of international sports events including the FIVB Grand Prix in Mexico and Croatia in 2014, the Women Volleyball World Cup in Japan a year later, plus the 2015 and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, respectively.

None of these events match up to the Fifa World Cup in size and stature, however.

Secondly, this trip, dubbed 'Qatar Experience' is courtesy of OdiBets, who've pulled all stops to enable close to 50 Kenyans, including journalists, loyal clients, football fans, and content creators have a taste of the world's most popular sporting event.

So I was never going to consider selling what was not mine anyway.

All said, the man's offer had me thinking.

500 United States dollars is equivalent to Sh60,000 in the prevailing exchange rates.

I'm told World Cup tickets for lucrative fixtures involving the likes of Brazil, Qatar, Argentina, England and Germany are sold for as much as Sh300,000 in the black market.

In contrast, the average cost of a match ticket in a Kenyan league game is Sh100, and Sh300 for a contest involving the men's national team Harambee Stars.

So what is it about a World Cup game that makes it worth 6000 times more than the one in Kenya?

To access to the 45,000-seater venue, we had to travel for close to 50km from our hotel.

The journey involved free bus and metro (train) rides at the expense of the host nation where we got to mingle with thousands of fans from around the world in the pre-match hype.

We then had to go through about 10 security check points, involving scanners and scrutiny of the precious ticket.

Inside the stadium, each seat is clearly labelled and allocated to a match ticket.

I watched the Morocco versus Belgium game and the venue was buzzing with passionate fans donning their favourite teams colours.

The pitch was well trimmed to offer a platform to the world's best players showcase their talents.

As I gazed through the action, Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne 'killed' a 60-yard pass with one touch and the crowd went wild.

Moments later, Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech, dazzled his way past three Belgium defenders with his magic left foot and the thousands of Morocco fans in the stands shouted siiiiiiiiii...

The mood was electric. One of its kind.

At the tip of the swift passes and brilliant moves were drone cameras capturing the action.

Two large screens were fitted at each corner of the stadium for VAR replays while each seat was fitted with an air conditioner beneath to cushion fans from the punishing Qatar heat.

Both of Morocco's goals were celebrated for almost two minutes, with cheers, hugs, chants, bullish songs among the supporters, while a section of Belgium fans could not hold back their tears at the final whistle.

At the end of it all, there were photo opportunities with fans from both teams.

Those of us with corporate tickets were then led to the VIP room for a meal and drinks as we networked with fans from around the world, and handed souvenirs and gifts from our hosts.

That experience cannot be replaced by money, and certainly not Sh60,000.


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