Jakir Hussein’s dream of watching the World Cup in Doha was almost shattered by an accident, but he never gave up.
DOHA — If there were a FIFA prize for the most tenacious fan, Jakir Hussein would make a good contestant.
And his story – from Bangladesh to Qatar – is perhaps as spirited and inspiring as Morocco, the unheralded African team that made it to the semi-finals in the FIFA World Cup.
A week before Hussein, 37, was to board his flight to Doha for the World Cup, the die-hard football fan – and a Liverpool supporter – from Dhaka landed in hospital with a broken left leg and deep gashes on his arms after a motorcycle accident. That was in November.
Bruised and battered, Hussein’s dream of watching the World Cup in Doha – he even had a ticket for the final – was almost shattered.
“God had other plans,” he tells TRT World in Doha, where he is enjoying the World Cup frenzy with his friends.
This is an event for which he had planned for more than four years and he was not ready to give up.
Hussein, a sales executive with a private company in Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka, has been working towards his goal of attending the World Cup in Qatar since 2018, setting aside 20 percent of his salary every month.
He saved an estimated $3000 for World Cup expenses, including tickets.
With his brother and several friends and acquaintances living and working in Doha, it was easy for Hussein to find and book cheap accommodation: a six-bedroom villa with three bathrooms and a large kitchen. Each room had five single beds.
In the Gulf nation of just over 2.5 million people, Qataris constitute only 10 percent of the country’s total population. While 21.8 percent are Indians and 13 percent Arab, Bangladeshis constitute the fourth-largest population group, with 12.5 percent.
Airfare from Bangladesh to Qatar on a direct flight – a five-hour journey –costs between $350-400.
Jakir paid just $800 to rent a villa for a month, a very meagre amount considering that in the tournament run-up, a two-bedroom Doha apartment was listed at $1,200 per night. Long-term rents in Qatar rose by more than 30 percent for the World Cup.
And he even had 19 stadium tickets for the month-long football festival.
But the accident disrupted his well-laid plans. Though he was discharged from the hospital a day later, his left leg was in a cast, and thick bandages covered his arms.
“My wife, she was not happy, but my doctor is a very good person. He inspired me. He told me, ‘you are going to the World Cup’. And he wrote me a certificate stating I am fit for travel. He encouraged me because the World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Hussein says.
Jakir knew it would be difficult to convince his wife and family to travel to Doha for the World Cup in a wheelchair, so he asked his doctor to speak to them.
After a long debate, the family agreed. Hussein’s wife also spoke to his brother and his friends in Doha.
A dream come true
When he finally landed in Qatar’s capital, everything fell into place.
Seated on his single bed wearing Japan’s official football team jersey, which he admitted was a copy, Hussein opens his large suitcase and takes out the rest of the team jerseys wrapped neatly in plastic covers.
“I have a total of 11 team jerseys. One of my friends was travelling to Thailand before the World Cup. So I gave him some money to buy these jerseys for me,” he says.
“I brought all my jerseys here. I want to enjoy the tournament. I have a favourite team for every match. Today I support Japan, tomorrow I support Brazil, the day after tomorrow I support England then I support Belgium. Yesterday, I supported Argentina.”
His room is upstairs near the kitchen. A strong aroma of fish cooked in curry leaves wafts through the common area.
“We buy groceries and cook at home, which helps us save money, but there are many Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants here in Doha that are very cheap, so we don’t mind dining out also,” he says.
About an hour later, his friend who lives and works in Doha, arrived at his apartment to pick him up. Japan is playing Germany at the Khalifa International Stadium, and Hussein is supporting the Asian country.
As his friend helps him onto a wheelchair, Hussein says, “Not being able to walk is the biggest challenge for me because of my fracture but I think I will get the help needed. Lots of people told me I won’t have any problems accessing stadiums”.
“My friends are very helpful. They take me everywhere and are with me all the time. They take turns pushing my wheelchair. I am grateful for my friends. All of my friends,” he adds.
At the stadiums, volunteers direct him to the priority lane. His ticket has also been changed from normal to disabled seating.
As volunteers scan his ticket at the stadium entrance, he says it was not in his control to stop the accident, but it sure is in his power to enjoy the tournament.
“If I manage everything well during this World Cup in this condition, I believe I can manage everything in the world,” he adds, turning philosophical for a while.
His friend, Asif, who was pushing his wheelchair, interjects.
“Football is life. We are here today witnessing the World Cup. What more can we ask for?
Hussein could not agree more.