‘The players know you’re there’: Being the Socceroos’ 12th man heading to Qatar

For Pablo Bateson, football isn’t a hobby, it’s a way of life.

The resilience planner from Meadowbank believes that “the three most important things are family, football and work.”

And the Socceroos superfan lives by his words, having attended about 90 World Cup qualifying games since 1973, which included 47 consecutive qualifiers between 2008 and 2017.

Pablo Bateson is heading to Qatar in November to watch the Socceroos in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Pablo Bateson is heading to Qatar in November to watch the Socceroos in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.Credit:Steven Siewert

“My passion for following the Socceroos started when I was a young kid in 1972 when I went with my father to see the Socceroos play Santos FC of Brazil,” Bateson told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

The following year he attended Australia’s qualifying games for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.

Now, almost 50 years later, he is one of many Aussies making the pilgrimage to Doha in November to watch the Socceroos play in the group stage of the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup from November 21 to December 18.

But the World Cup has not been without its criticisms, with teams such as Germany and the Netherlands protesting about the 2022 location during qualifiers, citing human rights concerns.

Qatar is also known for its strict and conservative laws, which include outlawing same-sex relationships and the consumption of alcohol – or being drunk – in public.

However, there are talks to relax alcohol consumption rules so that supporters can drink inside the stadiums.

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As well as the legal restrictions, available accommodation has also become a rising concern for people travelling to Qatar, something that Bateson is avoiding by staying in nearby Oman, an hour and a half flight from Doha.

Accommodation options in Doha range in price and luxury, from extravagant hotels or cabins on cruise ships to more affordable fan village cabins. But availability is the main concern, with more than a million people flooding into Doha for the World Cup.

As for costs, group stage tickets go for anywhere between $99-$315 for those who are successful in the next round of ‘first-in-best-served’ ticket sales.

Flights are likely to cost between $2000 and $3700, but steep prices can be avoided by flying on a cheaper airline with lengthy stopovers.

Transport to and from the stadiums is set to be a breeze, unlike the weather which still reaches up to 30 degrees celsius, but that will be relieved by the air-conditioned stadiums.

Public transport, including trams, public buses, shuttle buses and trains, are free for ticket holders who have a valid Hayya card, which attendees can apply for via the Qatar 2022 website.

The first game of the World Cup is at Al Thumama Stadium where Senegal will take on the Netherlands, and Australia’s first game is against France on November 22, against whom they lost 2-1 in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Bateson, along with the other Australian fans, will be cheering them on from the stands as the “12th man”, the one who can make a difference from the grandstand.

“You may be small in numbers,” says Bateson, “but they [the players] know you’re there. You try to be vocal, and you’ve got some flags and banners, and that’s really important.”

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