In the summer of 2001 I boarded a near-empty Qatar Airways flight to Doha. Reuniting with my family who’d recently moved there for my father’s new job, it was my first time living abroad.
It was another boiling hot afternoon. Ducking out of a taxi into the insane heat, I made the short dash over to City Center, Doha’s premier shopping mall, where a latte awaited me in a café on the fifth floor. I was sitting with a hot jumbo-sized mug in my clutches reading a magazine when a voice called across from a nearby table. ‘‘Hello friend, you are soccer fan?’’
Looking up, I saw two Qatari men dressed in traditional white ankle-length thobes, their red and white headdresses fluttering in the overzealous air-con. Momentarily confused, I realised the man had been referring to the blue and white hoops of my Q.P.R. shirt.
Smiling, I confirmed I was indeed an avid follower of the beautiful game, a revelation that saw the two men swiftly transfer the contents of their table to mine. ‘‘You know… Qatar now play qualify for World Cup. For South Korea-Japan” said the taller of the two, the owner of an impressive chest-level beard. ”You should support them!’’