Asian Cup 2019 winners Qatar came home to a rapturous welcome on Saturday evening, with the Amir HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani himself leading the welcome party.
Al Annabi beat Japan 3-1 in Friday’s Asian Cup final in Abu Dhabi to win the continent’s showpiece tournament for the first time in the nation’s football history.
Flown home on a chartered Qatar Airways flight from Oman’s Sohar, the champions received a red-carpet welcome upon arrival at the Doha Airport (Old Airport) around 7pm.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al Baker opened the doors of the plane after it touched down as captain Hassan al Haydos led the team out with the gold trophy in hand. They emerged as the Diwan bands played the national anthem.
HH the Amir and his Personal Representative HH Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani hugged and garlanded each member of the team, including coach Felix Sanchez and Qatar Football Association President Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al Thani.
The Amir congratulated the champions and the coaching and administrative staff, lauding their spirit and hard work throughout the Asian Cup campaign.
The players then headed on to a stage shaped like a victory arc for a photo session with their maiden Asian Cup, before being whisked into an open-roof bus for a tour of the city.
The bus took them through the heart of the city, where thousands of fans had been waiting to catch a glimpse of the Asian Cup champions.
Several ministers and high-ranking officials were also present at the airport to receive the victors, alongside the families, friends and some members of the national team who couldn’t make the trip to play in the Asian Cup.
Father of Almoez Ali and Assim Madibo, who was in the crowd of fans and journalists, told Qatar Tribune: “It is indeed a happy day for my family and Qatar. I am proud of my son for what he has achieved along with Qatar’s national team. The players deserve their victory and I am here to support him and the team.”
The 22-year-old, whose record nine goals in the tournament made him the top goal-scorer in any Asian Cup, was described as a destiny child by the father. “Even as a little boy, he always loved to play football and it is his destiny to shine in the game.”
Al Duhail captain and national team player Mohammed Musa and recuperating Ismaeil Mohammed said it was the happiest moment for Qatari football and they were proud of their teammates.
By Ikoli Viktor
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