Sun. Nov 20th, 2022

A fan zone set up in central Doha turned into a chaotic scene on Sunday on the opening day of the World Cup as tens of thousands of fans pushed past police lines to enter the venue.

Fans were trying to get into the enclosure, which has a large television to watch the games, a place to buy beer and little else.

Emergency police armed with batons and shields stood guard at the entrance. Some fans begged the police to let them through the column.

Only a few pregnant women and disabled fans were allowed into the fan zone through a special priority entrance shortly after the opening match between Qatar and Ecuador began in another Qatari city, Al Khor.

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“It’s very risky. People could die,” said Hatem El-Berarri, an Iraqi who said he works in neighboring Dubai. “Old men, women, can’t stand this kind of crowd. Thank God, I’m a little tall, so I can breathe. But I saw some kids and said ‘pick them up. I can not breathe.”‘

He said he saw people pushing and shoving and women crying.

“My family is inside. I can’t go in to see them anymore. I don’t know what to do,” he said.

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Luis Reyes, a Mexican-American who lives in Los Angeles, compared the crowd to the scenes of a few weeks ago in South Korea, in which more than 150 people died.

“You can’t go back or forward,” he said. “I told my son, ‘Let’s go out. It’s too dangerous.”

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It is not known if anyone was injured or arrested.

The deployment of riot police comes after a similar incident on Saturday night at a pre-World Cup concert, where people tried to force their way inside the fan zone on Doha’s Corniche at Al Bidda Park.

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