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With love and petals, Qatar welcomes its triumphant footballers

Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (centre), welcomed the national football team in Doha on Saturday. NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL/EPA

 

Published in AlJazeera, on Feb 3rd, 2019, by Showkat Shafi & Sorin Furcoi

The national team’s return was marked by wild celebrations in the capital, Doha, for the second night running.

Doha, Qatar – Thousands of Qataris and expat residents gathered in the capital, Doha, to give a hero’s welcome to the national football team following the country’s historic Asian Cup win in the UAE.

Qatar beat four-time winners Japan 3-1 in the final on Friday, sealing the Gulf nation’s first major football triumph.

On Saturday, fans holding national flags, banners and wearing replica jerseys cheered the team as it paraded through Doha’s landmark Corniche on an open-top bus.

The fans, many of whom had waited more than four hours to catch a glimpse of the team, threw flower petals and screamed ecstatically as the bus went past.

Earlier on Friday, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani congratulated the national football team for an “historic victory” after it arrived back in the country via Oman, where the players had reached on Friday evening.

 

“A tribute to our heroes who made this tournament an Arab achievement and… realised the dreams of millions of Qatari football fans across the great Arab world,” Sheikh Tamim wrote on his personal Twitter account.

En route to the final, Qatar beat Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two of the countries that have placed an air, land and sea blockade on the country since June 2015. It also beat Japan and South Korea, teams that have reached semi-finals of the football World Cup in the past.

A large number of expat workers, that make up the majority of Qatar’s population, were seen celebrating for the second night running.

Rawda Hamad, a Qatari, lauded the fact that residents had joined in on the celebrations and gave the national team so much backing and support.

“I am here to celebrate the win and to see the trophy come back home. I just feel so blessed that we won, I didn’t expect it. I am just so proud of our team,” Hamad told Al Jazeera.

“Expatriates here make a large part of our community and I hope they feel that this place is home just like we do.”

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