The Dragons of Doha: Army of 1,600 Wales fans take over luxury Qatar hotel ahead of first World Cup clash with USA tonight – as millions prepare to cheer on team from the green grass of home
- Wales will mark their World Cup return against the US at 7pm, with around 3,000 fans having made the trip
- They have not played at a World Cup since a quarter-final defeat to Brazil in 1958
- More than half of the travelling fans have taken over the four and a half star InterContinental Doha in Qatar
Thousands of Welsh fans have packed into hotels and bars in Qatar as they prepare to end their 64-year wait to play at the World Cup tonight.
No nation has waited longer for successive World Cup appearances, with Wales’ last game at the tournament being their 1958 quarter-final defeat to Brazil.
Wales will mark their return against the United States at 7pm, with around 3,000 fans having made the trip to Doha to support them at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
More than half of the travelling fans have taken over the four and a half star InterContinental Doha in Qatar as they wait for the match to kick off.
Dozens of fans were pictured inside the hotel’s La Parisienne bar this afternoon ahead of the match.
Jubilant videos from inside the venue also showed fans putting up a Wales flag and another that paying tribute to former manager Gary Speed, who died unexpectedly in 2011.
Another clip showed Wales legend Dafydd Iwan in the hotel performing a rousing rendition of his patriotic 1983 song Yma o Hyd, which translates as ‘Still Here’.
Welsh police who are in Qatar have said there have so far been no problems between English and Welsh fans in Qatar, with revellers instead enjoying ‘much merriment’.
Back in Wales, millions will be watching as thousands of fans gather at venues throughout the country to cheer on Rob Page’s side.
Earlier, Wales captain Gareth Bale said his side are feeling the ‘buzz from back home’.
However, Bale will not now wear the anti-discrimination OneLove armband during the match against the US after the English and Welsh FAs caved to pressure to drop the gesture.
Kane would have risked a booking had he stepped out wearing the armband for England’s clash with Iran earlier today, which the Three Lions won 6-1. The Welsh FA had earlier insisted they were prepared to be fined over the armband issue.
Thousands of Welsh fans have packed into hotels and bars in Qatar as they prepare to end their 64-year wait to play at the World Cup tonight. Above: Dozens of fans were pictured inside the city’s La Parisienne bar this afternoon ahead of the match
No nation has waited longer for successive World Cup appearances, with Wales’ last game at the tournament being their 1958 quarter-final defeat to Brazil. Above: Welsh
Dozens of fans were pictured inside the city’s La Parisienne bar this afternoon ahead of the match. Above: Fans watch England’s clash with Iran in the Lar Parisienne bar ahead of their own team’s clash with the United States
Iwan had previously sang his song on the pitch at Cardiff City Stadium before Wales’ crucial World Cup play-off matches against Austria and Ukraine earlier this year.
The Prince of Cymru: William sends good luck messages to Wales and England ahead of the World Cup in both English AND Welsh
Prince William wished England and Wales ‘the very best of luck’ ahead of their matches this afternoon after facing controversy over his support for the Three Lions team given his title.
England are currently playing Iran, while Wales is preparing to step out on the World Cup stage for its first group game since 1958 when it will play the USA.
Tweeting in both English and Welsh, he said: ‘Wishing the very best of luck to @Cymru and @England as they kick off in the #FifaWorldCup today. Looking forward to watching! W’
The message was signed ‘W’, denoting it came from William himself.
Last week, the Prince of Wales insisted he would be cheering on both teams during the tournament during a visit to the Senedd.
‘I’m telling everyone I’m supporting both, definitely. I can’t lose,’ William said.
The Prince, who is the President of the English Football Association, handed out shirts to the England squad before they set off to the Qatar ahead of the competition kicking off on Sunday.
This prompted Welsh actor Michael Sheen to hit out at the visit, saying it was ‘entirely inappropriate’ given his title.
Its rise in popularity since then saw it selected as the official anthem for Wales’ appearance in Qatar.
Speaking of the behaviour of Welsh fans in Qatar, Superintendent Steve Rees, head of the Welsh police unit in the country, told the PA news agency: ‘From a policing point of view things are going good so far.
‘We’ve spent the last couple of days familiarising the English and Welsh supporter engagement officers with the locations fans seem to be heading to.
‘So far not many of them seem to be going to the fan zones but rather staying in hotels and finding pubs that serve alcohol.
‘We we’re walking around pubs last night and there were England and Wales fans mixed in places and no trouble at all.
‘A lot of merriment, lots of singing and drinking but other than that no problems. We just hope it stays like that.’
He added: ‘With the ticketing issues we’re trying to get fans to go as early as possible to the stadium, we just don’t want to see everyone on the Metro at the same time and getting to the stadium at the same time in case it causes issues and people get frustrated.
‘We’ll be travelling with them and in the stadium mainly to liaise with local police about what is normal Welsh behaviour and to intervene with fans we think might be doing something they shouldn’t before they have local police come up to them.’
There are 15 supporter engagement officers out in Qatar for the tournament, five of which are drawn from the Welsh police forces and 10 are from England.
Bale said earlier: ‘We’re in our own little bubble so we don’t get to see too much here.’
‘But we see video and photos from back home, we can see the flags going up and everyone wearing their bucket hats and shirts.
‘We feel the buzz here and hopefully we can make the country proud by winning some games and scoring some goals.
‘At World Cups there’s never been a Wales flag, so it’s been difficult to have your team there.
‘For the youngsters growing up having Wales in the World Cup is an incredible experience to have. One I wished that I had, but hopefully we can do them proud.’
Wales football fans watch the England v Iran game in La Parisienne bar in Doha, Qatar, during the FIFA World Cup 2022
Wales fans hold up a flag in Qatar as they wait for their side to face the US tonight in what will be the country’s first World Cup game in 64 years
Wales football fans are seen after arriving at Hamad International Airport in Doha today, ahead of their side’s first group game
Wales football fans, (left to right) Mark Davies, Kyle Brace, Matt Heseltine and Bryn Hughes arrive at Hamad International Airport in Doha
England destroyed Iran 6-1 in the first match of Group B earlier today, at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Page said before the Three Lions’ victory: ‘You look at England and USA, and naturally people will talking about them as the top two, and then ourselves and Iran.
‘But we know on our day, and we’ve proven in the Nations League against Belgium and against a very good Dutch team, that we can more than compete.
‘We’re new to the tournament and there might be a few surprises along the way. There’s no pressure on us, we’re going to enjoy it, we’re going to compete.
‘I’ve said to the group: ‘We’re not here to make the numbers up, we’re here because we’ve earned the right to be here, because we’re a good team, and I want to go and show the world how good we are.”
Wales fan Jafar Said, 27, a consultant from Newport, has travelled to Qatar with his family members Hamza Ali, 27, from London, and Khalid Ali, 18.
A shuttle flight from the UAE to Doha full of Wales fans ahead of the country’s match against USA this evening
Wales fan Jafar Said (left), 27, a consultant from Newport, has travelled to Qatar with his family members Hamza Ali, 27, from London, and Khalid Ali, 18. Mr Said said they are staying for two weeks but joked that he would stay on if Wales get through the round of 16
Mr Said said they are staying for two weeks but joked that he would stay on if Wales get through the round of 16.
‘Don’t take me home,’ he told the PA news agency at the fan festival in Al-Bidda, Doha earlier today.
‘We’re having an amazing time, everyone has been very friendly.
‘And I’m very optimistic of our chances, we’ve got a good blend of experienced players.
‘Also a lot of people don’t expect us to win so we haven’t got the pressure that England have. Plus we have (Gareth) Bale.’
The trio have tickets to Wales’ opening match and also watched the England game against Iran beforehand.
Bryn Barnard, 30, from Portsmouth but who supports Wales, said he is only in Qatar for the first game against the US.
‘I don’t think my girlfriend would be let me stay longer, it’s a lot of money,’ he told PA. I’ve supported Wales since I was around eight, my mum is Welsh, and I love it. There’s just so much culture around it.
‘With my accent other fans could me like ‘you’re not Welsh’ but they’re not and, to be honest most of the Wales team are like me.
‘I’m just hoping we win, I think we need to start strong.’
On the controversy over drink being banned from the stadiums, he said: ‘I can see where a lot of fans are coming from, they did promise us before we came that we could drink here.
Superintendent Steve Rees from South Wales Police, leading the Wales supporter engagement officers in Qatar
‘But I haven’t had a drink since I got here and I’ve not missed it. You come here for the experience. I can drink at home.’
Darren Walsh from Bridgend and Lee Williams from the Rhondda, both 50, said they would be heading to a pre-match party with Wales fans being held in a hotel in the city before heading to the stadium for the game.
‘It would have been nice to have had a few beers in the stadium beforehand, I think it would mean a better build up, but it now just means fans will stay where they are for a bit longer before going to the game,’ Mr Walsh said.
England and Wales go head-to-head at Al Rayyan Stadium on November 29.
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford told reporters in Doha that the country should ‘dare to dream’ and that he was optimistic about the national team’s chances of getting out of the group stages.
‘The beauty of sport is that on the day, any team can win any game,’ he added.