25 November 2022

Wales fans gather for singalong as visa issues mean some risk missing Iran match

25 November 2022

Hundreds of Wales fans gathered early in Doha to take part in a singalong ahead of their team’s match against Iran, amid reports that several travelling from Dubai faced visa problems at the airport and risk missing the game.

A sea of red shirts and bucket hats could be seen on the city’s waterfront on Friday, along with the Urdd Youth Choir and Yma o Hyd singer Dafydd Iwan, with the crowd belting out fan favourites including I Love You Baby, and the Welsh national anthem.

The home nation will face Iran at 10am UK time, with England set to play the USA at 7pm.

The Wales Football Supporters’ Association said on Twitter: “Loads (of visas) finally got approved late but this whole process with day permit for Iran game has been difficult for our fans.

“We have informed Fifa and FAW.”

Dozens of fans replied to the post saying they or other supporters had been affected.

Fans with a valid match ticket are able to apply for a Matchday Visit Hayya Card, which is a visa permit that allows entry into Qatar for up to 24 hours.

However, many have reported that they are not being issued in time to board the shuttle flights into Doha.

There are hopes that ticketing issues which flared during England’s first game against Iran will have been resolved, while Fifa sought to reassure supporters on Thursday that those wearing rainbow-coloured hats and clothing would be allowed into the stadiums.

Former Wales captain Laura McAllister told the PA news agency: “I was always going to wear my rainbow bucket hat to today’s game, regardless of what we heard back from Fifa, but I’m really pleased we’ve been able to force Fifa’s hand on this.

“They have heard now that rainbow emblems, whether it’s bucket hats, or laces, or wristbands, will be permitted in the stadium, but of course we were told that before the USA game.

“I just hope they stick to what has been said, and I can’t see there being any issues unless the Qatari authorities completely ignore Fifa’s directive again.”

Ms McAllister said she has not received an apology over the incident but it has not soured the tournament for her.

She added: “This backfired so horribly for Fifa and the Qataris because, at the end of the day, it gave us a platform to talk about LGBT rights.”

All eyes will be on the Iran players and fans to see if they repeat the protests they carried out during their last match against England, which included not singing their national anthem.

The world will also be watching to see if Wales or England players decide to protest over Fifa’s decision to place sporting sanctions on captains who wear the One Love armbands.

The German team made a stand at the start of their head to head with Japan by posing for a picture covering their mouths.

Mr Iwan, who has been vocal in his criticism of the Iranian regime, said: “I think it’s great that the Iran football team has expressed a disenchantment with their own government.

“We must also oppose the Iran government.

“But, as far as football is concerned, this is a game we’ve got to win.

“I saw a glimpse of the team playing yesterday. They look in fine form – Joe Allen is very sprightly – so I’m full of confidence.”

Sara Penant, 28, from Caernarfon in North Wales, and one of the horde of Wales fans crowded around the giant bucket hat installation on Friday morning, said: “I’m excited. There’s such a buzz building around here, but slightly apprehensive about the game as well because obviously it’s a crucial one.

“If Wales win, it will be chaos tonight, but if we lose it’ll change the whole dynamic of the next couple of days.

“I hope we get to see it. We’re quite greedy now after the Euros last year and 2016.

“If you’d talked to us years ago, probably seeing Wales score in a World Cup would have been enough, but expectations are higher now and we want to see that win.”

Arwel Owen said what happened on Monday had “spurred” him on to wear his rainbow bucket hat to Friday’s match.

The 38-year-old, from Hendy in Carmarthenshire, said he is not a member of the LGBT community but feels it is important to be a supporter.

“That’s an important point to get across – that you can be a member by supporting it,” he said.

“I don’t have any shame in supporting the movement wholeheartedly.

“I’ve been a follower of the Rainbow Wall for a while and have followed the women’s side for years, so I feel it’s important to make this small stand.

“What happened on Monday really spurred me on to wear mine, so I made sure I brought it and wore it today.”

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