Jubilant Qataris take to the streets to celebrate UAE victory
Doha exploded in noisy celebration on Tuesday as jubilant Qataris flooded the streets and roads after their national team's victory over bitter sporting and political rivals, United Arab Emirates.
Traffic along one of the city's main highways, the Corniche, was jammed bumper-to-bumper with exultant fans celebrating the thumping 4-0 Asian Cup semi-final victory, many honking horns or waving Qatari flags from car roofs, and others showing four fingers to emphasise the emphatic victory.
"I am so happy, of course, because now we will play in the final," Abdul, 24, smoking a cigarette on the side of the road and watching the celebrations.
"But for us this match is better than the final, it's revenge for everything bad they (the Emiratis) have said.
"They say we are not good people, we are terrorists. All Qataris are very happy."
His Syrian friend Hattim agreed.
"This is history. Qatar has God with it. Qatar always acts the right way," he said.
Another Qatari celebrating on the roof of a nearby car said the result was much "sweeter" because of the opposition.
Eager Indian sellers were quick to cash in on the celebrations, charging 100 Qatari Riyals ($28, 24 Euros) on the Corniche for giant flags.
Nearby, those who accidentally got caught up in the noisy celebrations held their hands over their ears as so many drivers blew their horns.
- 'Qataris deserve it' -
The political overtones of the last four match were impossible to ignore.
The game took place against the backdrop of the continuing, Gulf Crisis, which has pitched Qatar against a group of neighbouring former allies, including UAE.
That group of countries has boycotted Qatar for the past 19 months, accusing it of supporting terrorism, among other allegations, a charge which the 2022 World Cup host denies.
Immediately after the victory, Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister took to Twitter to celebrate.
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, the foreign minster and one of the leading figures during the crisis, pointedly called the victory a "wonderful performance... with high sports ethics", after the partisan UAE crowd pelted Qatar with shoes and booed the national anthem during the match.
The semi-final was watched by big crowds throughout Doha, including at a packed and noisy Souq Waqif, in central Doha, where a giant screen showed the match live.
There, Qataris, alongside hundreds of fans from other countries including Egypt, France, Jordan and Algeria, watched the match intently.
At first the crowd were nervously quiet but as Qatar's dominance became apparent, fans become much noisier.
Qataris danced through the half-time break with their team 2-0 in front, and in the second half cheered every block and tackle as "Al-Annabi (The Maroons)" fought to hold onto their lead.
There were special cheers every time cameras showed despondent Emirati fans and especially when UAE's Ismail Ahmed was sent off.
The final whistle saw the start of wild celebrations in the Souq, with more music and dance.
"Congratulations! Congratulations! They deserve it," said one unnamed jubilant Qatari immediately after. "The Qatari people and the residents deserve it.
"We've hit them with four goals."
He added that the victory was for the country's leaders, including the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Nearby, an excited Algerian, Karim, said Qatar should now beat Japan in Friday's final.
"It's very fair, they gave a great performance, they deserve it,
"Inshallah, they deserve the cup."
© 2019 AFP