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9,000 Football-crazy Kolkatans Visit Qatar, More to Travel ahead of Final

The euphoria surrounding this year’s FIFA World Cup has been “unprecedented” in football-mad Kolkata, with nearly 9,000 fans having already travelled to Qatar to witness the showpiece event and many more slated to arrive in the next few days, officials said.

People are still making queries regarding ticket and accommodation availability and travel packages for Qatar, days ahead of the semi-finals and the final next week, they said.

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“Around 10,000-12,000 football fans have travelled to Qatar from eastern India so far, including close to 9,000 people from Kolkata. People are still very keen to make it to the semis and the final, and we expect at least another 1,500 Kolkatans to visit the Arab country,” Anil Punjabi, eastern region head of Travel Agents’ Federation of India (TAFI), told PTI.

Though the craze for the business end of the world cup has died down to an extent following the exit of giants such as Brazil and Portugal, Argentina’s advance to the semi-finals is reason enough for many of Kolkata’s football enthusiasts to pack their bags for Qatar.

“It’s all about Messi this time as it will be his last world cup. I had made up my mind months ago that if Argentina progresses to the semis, I will head to Qatar. Who knows, I might actually see Messi lifting the coveted trophy, which would be an unreal experience,” Subham Mitra, a resident of Lake Gardens, said.

Mitra said he will depart for Doha (Qatar capital) in the early hours of Monday. The average return fare to Doha costs around Rs 55,000-60,000 at present.

Argentina will take on Croatia in the first semi-final on Wednesday.

“Kolkata’s football frenzy for this edition of the world cup has been unprecedented because of two main factors — direct flights to Qatar, and the urge to travel more post the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during major global events,” Punjabi said.

The senior TAFI official also said Qatar will turn into a popular travel destination for people of east India, courtesy of the world cup.

“Qatar wasn’t among the sought-after tourist spots before the mega event, but the sporting spectacle has added great value to the place and we expect that more and more people will add it to their must-visit list,” Punjabi added.

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