The euphoria surrounding this year’s FIFA World Cup is “unprecedented” in football-crazy Kolkata, with nearly 9,000 fans already traveling to Qatar to witness the showpiece and many more to arrive in the coming days, according to officials.
People are still asking questions about the availability of tickets and accommodation and travel packages for Qatar days ahead of the semi-finals and final next week, they said.
“So far, about 10,000 to 12,000 football fans have traveled to Qatar from Eastern India, including nearly 9,000 people from Kolkata. People are still very excited to reach the semi-finals and finals, and we expect at least 1,500 more Kolkatans to visit the Arab country,” said Anil Punjabi, head of the Travel Agents’ Federation of India (TAFI) in the eastern region, to PTI.
While the craze for the business end of the World Cup has died down to some extent following the departure of giants like Brazil and Portugal, Argentina’s progress to the semi-finals is reason enough for many Kolkata football fans to pack their bags for Qatar. .
“This time it’s all about Messi, because it will be his last World Cup. I had decided months ago that if Argentina progress to the semi-finals, I will go to Qatar. Who knows, I might see Messi lift the coveted trophy, which would be a surreal experience said Subham Mitra, a Lake Gardens resident.
Mitra said he will leave for Doha (capital of Qatar) in the early hours of Monday. The average return fare to Doha currently costs around Rs 55,000-60,000.
Argentina will face Croatia in the first semifinal on Wednesday.
“Kolkata’s football frenzy for this edition of the World Cup is unprecedented due to two major factors: direct flights to Qatar and the push to travel more following the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during major global events,” Punjabi said.
The senior TAFI official also said that thanks to the World Cup, Qatar will become a popular travel destination for people from eastern India.
“Qatar was not one of the most sought after tourist spots before the mega event, but the sporting spectacle has added great value to the place and we expect more and more people to add it to their must-visit list,” Punjabi added please.