A football-mad England fan who moved to Qatar for the World Cup has defended the host country after celebrating his birthday with a commemorative cake from his bosses.
Debbie Perera follows The Three Lions alone but says she’s made many friends from all over the world along the way and isn’t afraid to be a lone supporter.
Originally from Teeside in northern England, the maternity nurse works privately for a Qatari family in Doha who yesterday celebrated their 57th birthday with World Cup gifts.
She will be sitting near the halfway line for the clash against USA tonight and plans to go to Al Bayt Stadium with the “United Nations fans”.
FIFA matches were marred by concerns about the hosts’ treatment of LGBTQ+ people and the suppression of rainbow flags in stadiums.
The veteran traveller, who moved to Qatar to work six months ago to anchor herself in the country ahead of the competition, told Metro.co.uk that so far she has had no reservations about the reception.
“There were some negative stories, but the Qataris were so hospitable, they were nice,” she said.
“For my birthday my bosses bought me a beautiful cake with half the English flag and the other half the flag of Qatar and an England shirt with Debbie 22 on it to celebrate World Cup year.
“They also gave me some World Cup memories for my son Thomas, who has cerebral palsy and is a huge Redcar fan, from the hospitality and VIP areas of the games they attended.
“He will send them a Redcar Athletic scarf in return.
“My bosses have offered me the same hospitality, but I want to be in the stands among the fans.
“That sums up how Qataris are, they are so hospitable and welcoming.
“There is another England fan who the Qataris took to the desert to see a Bedouin tent and learn about their culture.
“There was some good interaction between the locals and the English fans. It’s heartwarming.’
Debbie has tickets to seven games including the Iran game and is using the competition to promote British non-league football.
Qatar is the 24thth Nation where she has watched football, with her previous travels taking her to matches in countries such as Saudi Arabia.
Accustomed to the cultural mores of Middle Eastern countries, the Redcar Athletic fan was not afraid to pay the equivalent of £1,500 for the tickets in a country criticized for the treatment of women and for same-sex relationships are illegal.
She has met other fans, including an Iranian couple she had coffee with after the Three Lions’ win on Monday, and plans to meet them again before returning home.
“I go to games alone with my Redcar Athletic flag, but I’ve made so many friends from all over the world along the way,” said Debbie.
“It’s a friendly, welcoming atmosphere where everyone gets along really well. Even the police interfere in the subway and help the boys put their hats on, it’s really funny to watch.
“I’ve been wearing red and white all along, I’m wearing an England shirt to the USA game tonight with red shorts and red trainers.
“I haven’t seen any problems or heard a single person say anything negative since the start of the World Cup. I go to the game with two Canadians, a Qatari, a Croatian, a Latvian and another Brit.
“We don’t have seats together, but we met during the World Cup and we’re like the United Nations of the fans.”
Also traveling to the USA game is Paul Townsend, who enjoyed the atmosphere so much he is hoping to make a second trip to Qatar – earning a total of 16,000 airline miles in the process.
Paul, 42, arrived for his fifth straight World Cup on Sunday and had planned to stay a week to watch the Three Lions’ first two games.
The director of the construction company was concerned after hearing “horror stories” before leaving for the emirate, but he has also enjoyed partying with fans from around the world.
He spent a total of £1,700 on his trip and will return to Barnt Green near Birmingham on Sunday but now wants to follow England further into the competition.
Three Lions fans have reported problems with official accommodation and prices of £12.50 for a pint in the festival parks.
“The welcome from the Qataris was great, they were really friendly,” said Paul. “There are some issues with the arrangements, but it’s not the horror stories that are being spread.
“I’m in the Zafaran fan camp, which isn’t the best. I was told it’s all inclusive with the subway system that takes you anywhere you need to go but you have to get off and take a shuttle bus.
“It makes the time stretch a lot, so I overdid it everywhere.
“The room was a bit dusty so I had to have it cleaned after four days and the air conditioner is noisy, you can’t leave it on at night because it’s in the corner of your room like a bus.
“Of course, the beer is also expensive, in the fan parks it costs £50 for a round of four, and in many hotels you can end up paying up to £20.
“Other than that, it’s great out here. Between games, a DJ spins at Al Bidda Fanpark and it’s like a rave there.
“The 900 Park also has a good atmosphere. You can’t go all over the place getting drunk, which you can understand in another country, but as long as you’re respectful there’s no problem.
“I’m flying home after the USA game because I’ve heard horror stories, but now I’m planning to come back here. It’s always been important to me to stand behind England, I take my son to all home games.
“I’ve been to all the Euros and a few qualifiers too. It’s our identity and it’s in my DNA. I will not stop supporting them until I am physically unable to.
England play USA at 19:00 UK time with the Three Lions sure to qualify for the Final 16 if they emerge victorious.
Sam Tabuteau, a freelance sportswriter and founding member of the 10Teams World Cup game, weighed the Three Lions’ odds.
He said: “After England’s dominant display against Iran, I’m calmly confident.
“But this is England vs USA, it’s a lot bigger than a football game.
“And when there is some expectation outside of the game, England tend to fold, as the draw against Scotland at Euro showed.
“Beating the USA will increase their resilience, which bodes well for their progress to the final rounds.”
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/11/25/qatari-familys-heartwarming-world-cup-birthday-gifts-to-england-fan-17828507/ Qatari Family 'Heartwarming' World Cup Birthday Gifts To England Fan