Life in Qatar and enjoying the World Cup - through the eyes of a Lancaster teacher

A Lancaster man now living in Qatar has shared his experiences of the World Cup.
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Former Lancaster Royal Grammar School pupil Colin Shapley is working as a teacher in Qatar, and the 29-year-old wanted to share exactly what it's been like anticipating and now experiencing the controversial World Cup up close, as well as his view on life in the Middle Eastern country.

Here is his account of the experience so far…

Having started my third academic year as Head of Year 7 at Qatar International School, it is an obvious remark to make that this academic year would be like no other.

Colin Shapley with his fiancée Londa Managadze at the World Cup match bewteen Argentina and Saudi Arabia.Colin Shapley with his fiancée Londa Managadze at the World Cup match bewteen Argentina and Saudi Arabia.
Colin Shapley with his fiancée Londa Managadze at the World Cup match bewteen Argentina and Saudi Arabia.
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The school closed its doors last week for what would be a six-week holiday, allowing pupils and staff to enjoy the Qatar World Cup in all its glory.

The decision to have Qatar host the World Cup has been contentious in the eyes of many westerners; however, it would be a lie to claim that the first week of the World Cup hasn’t been a success.

Everything from the opening ceremony, the matches, the FIFA fan festival, music acts, fan zones, to logistics such as the crowd control and managing of the purpose-built metro system has been meticulous, and to this I raise my non-alcoholic international beverage.

From Lancaster to Qater – via Spain and Scarborough

Colin Shapley with his fiancée Londa Managadze at the FIFA fan festival.Colin Shapley with his fiancée Londa Managadze at the FIFA fan festival.
Colin Shapley with his fiancée Londa Managadze at the FIFA fan festival.

My upbringing was certainly a modest one and the transition from Lancaster, a city steeped in history and culture, to Doha, a modern city constructed over the course of a couple of decades, has certainly been a wild experience.

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In brief, I was brought up on Barley Cop Lane on the Vale where I attended Ryelands Primary School before securing a spot at Lancaster Royal Grammar School.

From there, I attended Lancaster University where I studied social work, and after completing my degree, moved to Spain where I taught English for four years.

I returned to England, specifically Scarborough, completing my teacher training in mathematics before making the choice to move to Qatar with admittedly very little knowledge of the Middle East.

Colin Shapley with fiancee Londa Managadze at the England v USA game at Al Bayt Stadium.Colin Shapley with fiancee Londa Managadze at the England v USA game at Al Bayt Stadium.
Colin Shapley with fiancee Londa Managadze at the England v USA game at Al Bayt Stadium.

The decision to move here was a difficult one amidst the height of a global pandemic and not to mention the overwhelming scrutiny on the issues surrounding the World Cup in Qatar.

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Nevertheless, it was an opportunity to experience a different way of living and earn a decent wage in comparison to the underpaid teachers back home in the UK.

My experience of the country certainly opposes the often-disparaging remarks made by western media in what I deem to be attempts to vilify the country.

While I cannot comment on the motives behind this, I can comment on what I have witnessed first-hand, and that is a country and people that values its international residents.

Colin Shapley with fiancee Londa Managadze at the England v USA game at Al Bayt Stadium.Colin Shapley with fiancee Londa Managadze at the England v USA game at Al Bayt Stadium.
Colin Shapley with fiancee Londa Managadze at the England v USA game at Al Bayt Stadium.

Life in the Middle East

Like many of the Gulf states, Qatar found itself with a tremendous amount of wealth in a very short period, but nevertheless have managed to create a modern, functioning society within a single generation with plenty of positives that can be drawn upon but are often ignored.

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One worth noting is the health care, for example: all expatriates must have health insurance provided to them by their employers, which means first-class healthcare for all residents, something which I am sure many would appreciate back in the UK.

Additionally, employers are also obligated by the Qatari government to provide either accommodation or an accommodation allowance to their staff on top of their wage.

In terms of safety, Qatar is the kind of place where you can leave your phone somewhere accidentally and rest knowing that you will get it back.

My fellow residents of Qatar often express their gratitude for having the opportunity to live and work in Qatar with a salary and standard of living which exceeds that which could be offered in their home countries.

Colin Shapley with fiancee Londa Managadze at the England v USA game at Al Bayt Stadium.Colin Shapley with fiancee Londa Managadze at the England v USA game at Al Bayt Stadium.
Colin Shapley with fiancee Londa Managadze at the England v USA game at Al Bayt Stadium.

‘Incredible’ experience

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Having attended a few games at Qatar now and spent time in the various fan zones, the experience has been incredible. I have been amazed by how simple it has been to get to the stadiums, fan zones and just how well managed everything has been.

The metro system is free for world cup goers and is has proven to be remarkably efficient. Missed the train or it’s full? No problem, there is another two minutes later – a stark contrast to the public transport back home.

At the stadiums, entry takes around 10 minutes with airport-style security with bag scanners and metal detectors in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the fans at the games. The fan zones outside the stadiums, albeit without alcohol, have DJs, entertainers, dance acts…the lot!

Afterwards, a quick metro down to the FIFA fan festival or one of the other fan zones have beer.

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While admittedly steep at 50 Qatari Riyal (around £11.50), there are plenty of bars and pubs dotted around Doha, in hotels where you can get a pint for as low as 25 Qatari Riyal (around £5.70) – still fairly expensive but more akin to London prices.

Qatar have done ‘a fantastic job’

The entertainment and acts have been excellent, and Qatar have managed to secure several big names across the duration of the tournament.

Robbie Williams will be making an appearance in a couple of weeks and Craig David performed just a few nights ago.

There are also several internationally renowned DJs such as Calvin Harris, David Guetta and Major Lazer taking the stage over the course of the World Cup.

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Some of the acts have also been free: Blue, for example, performed after England won their opening match at the FIFA fan festival.

Qatar have done a fantastic job in hosting the world cup so far and should be commended on the merits.

While there is certainly room for improvement within the country, it is important to note that certain aspects have been either fabricated or grossly exaggerated.

Perhaps it would be wiser for us as a society to stop pointing fingers at the flaws of other countries and look introspectively at our own. But hey, that’s just my opinion!

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