Peter Vandenbempt commented for Radio 1 on the opening match at the World Cup between host country Qatar and Ecuador. In our World Cup podcast he was asked if he could easily get back to the hotel.
“It was a ‘bumpy ride’, but the departure from the stadium went very smoothly. That, of course, had to do with the fact that half of the 60,000 people had already left well in time. They no longer blocked our way.”
In the stadium, he couldn’t believe his own eyes. “I’ve never seen that in a final round of a major tournament. I’m not exaggerating – I think it was hard to see on television – but half to two thirds of the stadium was just empty.”
“It had already started after the break, there were already a lot of empty seats and from minute 70 the stadium just emptied. By the final whistle, the stadium was less than half full, just unbelievable.”
“That is a huge blow to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, for Qatar and for the organization. That only strengthens the belief that those who were watching are not regular football fans.”
That exodus probably had a lot to do with the weak performance of the host country. “Qatar was embarrassingly bad,” says Vandenbempt. “They made themselves ridiculous, I can’t say it any other way, unrecognizable.”
“It is also remarkable – although he was often in the picture during the opening ceremony and before the match – that we no longer got a picture of the emir. So I suspect that he was with those Qataris who left early.”
During the World Cup in Qatar you can listen to an episode of the World Cup podcast from De Tribune every morning. Jonathan Metdepenninghen talks to 2 of our commentators or analysts in Qatar every day. They look back and forward and give an impression of life in Qatar. Listen every day in the VRT MAX app.