In 2010, Waled Juda, a freelance sports journalist from the besieged Palestinian city of Gaza, wrote on Facebook that he will be going to Qatar to cover World Cup. His friends ridiculed him.
12 years later, Waled is in Doha, with Palestinian flags on his shoulders, to live more than what he dreamt.
Waled is part of 25 journalists from Gaza, covering the World Cup in Qatar. This is the first time he is travelling outside Gaza after he received his passport in January this year.
“Palestine flags are everywhere here,” Waled says with excitement. “There are more Palestine flags than any other 32 participating countries”.
Palestinian flags are spotted in almost all games and Qatari officials are wearing armbands in support.
Waled and his colleagues crossed Egypt’s border to arrive in Doha. Waled also said he saw no flags of Israel in Qatar.
Qatar has been a strong supporter of Palestine, a state many western countries have refused to recognise after the formation of the Jewish-dominated state of Israel in 1949.
Earlier, Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al-Khater spoke to the media stressing that Palestine will always remain in the conscience of Qatar.
“We expect to celebrate with thousands of our brothers and sisters from Palestine and we affirm here that their cause and our just cause in Palestine will always remain present in our conscience.”, she said.
Earlier this year, Qatar received praise from pro-Palestine activists for removing Israel from the list on its World Cup hospitality booking site, instead replacing that with “Palestinian Territories, Occupied”.
More recently, the gulf state disallowed Israel to operate a temporary consulate in Doha during the World Cup, leaving Israeli citizens to be provided consular services through a private international travel company.