Thousands of seats empty inside Al Bayt Stadium during World Cup opener between Qatar and Ecuador


    Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group A - Qatar v Ecuador - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - November 20, 2022 General view of empty seats during the match REUTERS/Molly Darlington
    Qatar and Ecuador were playing in front of thousands of empty seats in the second half (Reuters)

    Thousands of empty seats could be seen inside the Al Bayt Stadium during the second half of Qatar’s World Cup opener against Ecuador on Sunday.

    The tournament began with a dazzling pre-match display which featured Morgan Freeman and Jung Kook, but on the pitch Qatar failed to excite the home supporters as they were two goals down to Ecuador by half time following Enner Valencia’s double.

    Plenty of supporters left their seats during the half-time break but during the second half, a significant number had failed to return and their absence was clear as large swathes of empty seats could be seen across the stadium.

    The official attendance was announced as 67,372 during the second half, but there was considerably less inside the stadium as the game progressed.

    Ecuador’s supporters at one end of the ground stayed on until the final whistle to applaud their side after they had secured a 2-0 win against the tournament hosts.

    Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group A - Qatar v Ecuador - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - November 20, 2022 Empty seats are seen during the match REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
    Large pockets of empty seats were seen inside the Al Bayt Stadium (Reuters)
    Editorial Use Only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Javier Garcia/Shutterstock (13625655dn) A general view of match action and empty seats Qatar v Ecuador, FIFA World Cup 2022, Group A, Football, Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - 20 Nov 2022
    Thousands of fans failed to return after the half-time break (Shutterstock)
    AL KHOR, QATAR - NOVEMBER 20: Fans leaving early during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
    Qatar’s supporters were less than impressed with their side’s performance against Ecuador (AMA/Getty)

    Gary Lineker, who was inside the stadium hosting the BBC’s live coverage, said that the empty seats during the second half was notable.

    ‘It seemed full at the start of the game,’ Lineker said.

    ‘Then at half time you said straight away, ‘a lot of empty seats’, we thought it was perhaps one of those things where they’d come back from the corporate things [for the second half].’

    Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group A - Qatar v Ecuador - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - November 20, 2022 General view of fans in the stands REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
    The official attendance was announced as 67,372 (Reuters)
    Editorial Use Only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kieran McManus/Shutterstock (13625667cp) Empty seats inside the Al Bayt Stadium Qatar v Ecuador, FIFA World Cup 2022, Group A, Football, Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - 20 Nov 2022
    BBC’s Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer said the absence of fans in the second half was notable (Shutterstock)

    Former England striker Alan Shearer added: ‘This is an hour into the game, there were so many leaving, at half time as well.

    ‘They just never came back into the stadium, certainly not in the numbers that were there ahead of the game.’

    Ecuador's players acknowledge their supporters after wining the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group A football match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Doha on November 20, 2022. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
    Ecuador’s fans at one end of the ground stayed for the entirety of the game (AFP via Getty)
    Editorial Use Only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Javier Garcia/Shutterstock (13625655dk) Empty seats inside the Al Bayt Stadium Qatar v Ecuador, FIFA World Cup 2022, Group A, Football, Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - 20 Nov 2022
    A pocket of Qatar’s livelier fans even thinned out as the game went on (Shutterstock)
    Fans appear to leave before the final whistle during the FIFA World Cup Group A match at the Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor. Picture date: Sunday November 20, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story WORLDCUP Qatar. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.
    One end of the stadium was significantly emptier in the 90th minute (PA)

    FIFA announced last month that nearly three million tickets have been sold for the tournament, with Qatar topping the list of nations with the highest number of tickets at 37% of sales.

    During the 2018 World Cup, FIFA launched an investigation after thousands of empty seats were seen during Uruguay’s 1-0 win against Egypt on the first day of the tournament.

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