More than 77,000 people attended the Super Cup final between Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia and Zamalek of Egypt at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar last Friday. At the inauguration of the World Cup final arena, they helped set a national record: never before had there been an event with so many visitors in the small Arab state.
Not everyone present, however, will have raved about the penalty shoot-out match and the performance by famous Egyptian singer Amr Diab. Instead, their topic was the problems with admission, the journey home and the supply of drinks - serious problems, as local media reported. Queues formed at the stadium and at the entrances to the metro, with waiting times similar to those at Berlin Airport at the beginning of the holiday season. Typically garnished with high temperatures and even higher humidity. The organizers didn't think it was all that bad: they praised the "invaluable experiences" of the evening.
In this country you might think that you have enough problems at home with your own local transport, but the fact that the World Cup is about to start in Qatar is overlooked. In just over two months, the hosts will kick off the tournament with a game against Ecuador, and then all aspects of Qatar's political, public and social life will shake the world. Hansi Flick is already a lot ahead of his compatriots, he is already "absolutely in World Cup mode", as he reported on Thursday.
Mats Hummels seems "very fit", states national coach Flick
The national coach uses the bizarre simultaneity of the approaching start of the tournament and the Bundesliga and European Cup seasons just getting underway to drive the competition for places in the World Cup squad. When presenting the squad for the last two international matches before leaving for Arabia (against Hungary on September 23 and in England on September 26), Flick made unexpected signals. So he nominated a player whom nobody but himself had really thought of, 20-year-old defender Armel Bella-Kotchap, who was a member of VfL Bochum last year and has now joined Southampton FC.
Flick also paid particular attention to the recent development of another defender, whom most friends of the national team had already given up thinking about. Mats Hummels, however, Flick thinks, "seems very fit" at the moment and therefore shares a possibly hopeful perspective with fellow world champions Mario Götze and Julian Draxler. The door to Qatar is still open to all of them, Flick assures. For the national coach, the ongoing game operation is a catwalk on which his candidates offer themselves.
At the next World Cup tournament, everything will initially be a little different than those involved in DFB history: The usual preparations in the Tyrolean summer resort are canceled for seasonal and scheduling reasons, because the Bundesliga carries the day before departure to the Gulf two games left; instead of the usual 23 players, the national coach is allowed to take 26 with him, the final test game is pushed in between while passing through the neighboring Sultanate of Oman, and the Advent singing has to take place at the hotel pool at 30 degrees. It all sounds very unreal, but in just 65 days it will start in Qatar.