The football (real football!) World Cup kicked off on 20 November last and the final was played on Qatar National Day Public Holiday, 18 December 2022.

Qatar came in for some ferocious criticism in the international media in the lead-up, mostly from Western Europe and from the UK in particular. From someone who has lived in Qatar for almost nine years, MB can say that the vast majority of the criticisms were inaccurate and grossly exaggerated. Much of the stuff MB read online might have had some relevance in 2010 when Qatar was awarded the tournament but since that date, the governing authorities here passed a host of legislative enactments that created a far safer and more protected environment for those workers, mainly from SE Asia, that worked on the many WC related projects. Other online articles were complete fabrications MB can say with certainty.

Much was also made of the laws here relating to the gay community. A gay lifestyle is strictly forbidden here, as it is in most Muslim countries and many others. That’s not to say that MB agrees with the local laws. He doesn’t. But he comes from a different culture and doesn’t think he has any God-given right to force his values on others who disagree with his. And maybe in time and over a few generations, attitudes and laws will change. The solution promised by Qatar was, essentially, that the authorities would turn a blind eye to whatever happened behind closed doors, but just respect the local laws and customs in public, and all would be welcome. And the authorities were good to their word.

A few days before the tournament started, the authorities announced that stadiums would be alcohol-free. Having attended six matches in total and with the benefit of hindsight, MB can say that it was a good decision. There was a great friendly and fun atmosphere at the games with many young kids in attendance with their moms and dads; with the moms and dads not having to worry about boorish drunken behaviour of fans. The focus was on the games and taking selfies and having great family fun and memories for the future.

From a football perspective, the tournament was a huge success with record goal-scoring and the best WC Final in the history of the game. Messi wearing his Arabic cloak, or bisht as it’s called in the local language, will live long in the memory. The bisht received much negative publicity from the usual quarters, but to be offered to wear it is a big honour in Gulf societies. So the bisht got a big thumbs up from MB.

One unique feature of the 2022 WC was that the entire tournament was played in a single city, unlike most past WC tournaments which were be hosted by multiple cities many hours flying time apart. So going out socially during the Qatar 2022 WC meant that you were sure to bump into fans from any or all 24 countries who participated in the initial group stages. Many from outside the Middle East learned that people here are not so different than people back home and it was great to see Arabs and non-Arabs mixing and taking football and generally chit-chatting about everything and anything at the nightly entertainment and eating venues. Qatar has actually extended the WC ‘visa on arrival’ programme until end 2023 for many nationalities. We are presently in the middle of the end-of-Ramadan Eid Public Holiday period over here and the hotels are full of tourists from outside, many returning no doubt to relive some WC memories.

Eight mega-stadiums were built for the tournament. One was built fully from shipping containers and will soon be fully dismantled, if it’s not already (MB must check!). Others were built with demountable top halves, so the 40, 000 capacity will reduce to 20,000 and local clubs will take those over. Others will remain as they were built for use for major sports and entertainment events. So, all in all, the goal of a sustainable tournament was generally achieved.

There was a feeling of pride amongst locals, natives and ex-pats alike, that the tournament went off so successfully, and some sadness that the daily and nightly fun had come to an end.

The flags of the participating nations and the Hublot countdown clock:

International Women’s Day – Minus 5

A little slice of Ireland in the Middle East.

A ladies Irish Football team poses for a team photo at the Qatar tournament, October 2015.


The Euros, and all that!

As every lady knows, the Euro football championships are on at present in France and are a footballing joy to behold. Iceland football team, and Republic of Ireland fans, are everybody’s favourites. Iceland’s defeat of the ‘auld enemy’, as we in Ireland sometimes often refer to ‘England’, will be many people’s favourite sporting moment ever, in the whole world, in the whole of sporting history, back as far a the days of the Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble.

It’s a little a lot ironic, that in the middle of the tournament, Britain voted to exit the European community. Northern Ireland, Wales & England (all Brits) are each playing in the competition; but MB isn’t going to get into a deep (or even a shallow) discussion about Brexit, David Cameron, et al. Instead he wants to mention an aspect of it all that friends of MB back home would not have considered.

The beautiful game is, of course, a world sport and the games are watched avidly in MB’s Middle East abode. And as the ME is a melting pot of numerous races and peoples from every continent on the globe (except Antartica), MB found himself having to explain to many, when asked, the difference between the Republic of Ireland (MB’s patch and one of the participating teams) and Northern Ireland (another of the participating teams). “So you’re all British MB?” asked many Pakistanis/Nepalese/Mongolians/Khazaks/Arabs and God only knows who else.

“Grrrrrrr” replied MB to the first one or two such questions. Then MB though – it’s actually a question that Irish people have also asked themselves for approximate 800 years, since date of arrival of first British visitors to Irish shores, who had previously read all sorts of good and juicy things of the Emerald Isle on some early version of And arrived en masse to ‘help’ the locals.

Anway, MB tried as best he could to explain the difference between North (British) and South (Republic – not British – definitely not) Ireland to all who asked, and hopefully the people of Outer Mongolia and elsewhere will shortly receive geographical enlightenment from their cousins working under the hot desert sun in the Emirate of Qatar. The world bwill be a better place for it, and MB will receive less such Grrrr questions in the future.

MB also explained to many that Ireland has it’s own language. “You mean English MB?”. “Grrrrrrrrr” replied MB yet again. But in the spirit of imparting knowledge and wisdom, as MB is often given to do, and to put the geographically and culturally challenged imbeciles friends of MB in the right direction, MB pointed many to YouTube links to an Irish college, who have numerous really cool videos of the kids performing uber-cool versions of well-known popular music pieces – in the Irish Gaelic language, or ‘as Gaeilge’ as we say back home. MB regularly watches and listens to the videos of Coláiste Lurgan (Lurgan College), not because of any curtural/Irish reason, but because they are so damn good.

So HX followers, herewith, MB  gives you the kids of Coláiste Lurgan, singing their hearts out in the Irish language – as Gaeilge. Not in English. Grrrrrrr…………….!

Warning – it’s addictive listening. You may find yourself listening to more than one or two!

Really cool. Enjoy.



May the force be with you. The FIFA force that is. Or the UEFA force for the coming weeks. Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge – Jubilant


The HX soccer club won the local Cup Final on Friday night, completing a season League & Cup double. Needless to say, they were jubilant!



Qatar 2-1 North Korea

Asia U23 Football (Top 3 qualify for the Olympics)

MB’s camera was confiscated by security guys as he entered the Al Sadd stadium tonight. Luckily he had managed to capture some of the atmosphere outside the grounds before the security incident.

The local Arabs were dressed like local Arabs. The North Korean fans seemed to be construction workers presently based in the Emirate. They dazzled us with their red caps. An attempt by MB to take a selfie with one of them was quickly snuffed out by a sharp-eyed NK official, who jumped in and told MB to FO – gangnam style!





Weekly Photo Challenge – Oops!



Football Matters

MB attended a football game in Doha, Qatar, last weekend. At the Al Sadd Sports Club. It reinforced his view that the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar in 2022 is a good one.

Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge – Eye Spy

Eye Spy.

Attended a football match this afternoon in Doha, Qatar. 7D in hand.

Caught this one.


Weekly Photo Challenge – Enveloped


14 Year old daughter of MB (aka MB2) was in Madrid a few weeks back and captured a great shot which is appropriate for this week’s photo challenge. The image of the inside of Real Madrid football club’s home ground – the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium – was taken by MB2 using the panorama setting on her camera phone. Proud dad!

Real Madrid

The Unifying Force

The FIFA Ballon d’Or (World Footballer Of The Year) nominations for 2014 were recently announced. The kids MB met last week dream of making that list some day.  Read More

Ghosts @ HX

Today’s daily writing challenge is ‘Ghosts’.

But a picture speaks a thousand words. And many pictures much more than that.

Tir Na Nog

Greetings boys & girls


Actually finished this blog last night and managed to delete it all. Hells bells or what?! Now back in the saddle again, so here we go:



MB is back in Saudi for the last four days and getting acclimatised once again after ten day break back home. Mercifully the weather is getting cooler out these parts and it’s possible to walk about in some degree of comfort, especially at night. It might be possible to go for nightly strolls or even power walks were it not for all the crazy Saudi male drivers, who have little regard for traffic lights or lane discipline or anything else related to good road manners. Poor street lighting and lack of definition between street & footpath in many places is also a factor. So to venture out for a walk, as MB did a few nights back, means constantly looking over your shoulder, left & right, up & down, and in the end the neck muscles end up getting more exercise than the leg muscles. MB is lucky he has eyes in the back of his head, as it’s is a prerequisite for walks around northern Riyadh.


Tomorrow is Lady Drivers action day in Saudi. When some ladies will drive cars on the public roads, which is against the law at present. MB tried to log on to some of the web sites the ladies are using but they are mostly blocked. Anyway, good luck to the ladies tomorrow. I asked one Saudi (male) friend today what Saudis thought of it all and he replied that Saudis are only thinking about the Barcelona/Madrid game tomorrow night!





On landing in Ireland two weeks ago MB was immediately struck by how so many things are good and right. We like to complain at home sometimes but we should thank our lucky stars. Taxis, buses, trains all working, clean streets, fantastic scenery. Relatively low crime rates. And people have a life. Outside of work there are so many things to do. Irish parents are always complaining that they are on the road with Junior or on the side of a pitch 24/7. If Junior happens to be particularly skillful then he/she has numerous sports to participate in and mom/dad will spend much of their spare time going from home to match back to home. And same again tomorrow. But while its a drag most will admit that they wouldn’t have it any other way.




All organised by unpaid volunteers in the local communities. And the culture & country is enriched as a consequence. There seems to be no such history or culture in the Middle East. None that MB has seen at least. Maybe it’s combination of the extreme climate for six or seven months per year, the conservative traditions & history, and the interpretation of the religion, which can be extreme in many locations. If your history is one of struggle and strife in a very hot desert climate then it difficult to be organising kids soccer matches, to be fair. But there is no shortage of the green stuff – the cash. Loads of it for buying fancy cars, building plush villas, or palaces. So cash is not the issue. Just the culture, the traditions and the history I guess.


Another thing that MB noticed on trip home is how old everyone is starting to look. Many of MBs friends & family are now north of 50. And starting to look it. Hit MB like a hammer blow last week. Greying heads, wrinkles that were not there previously, bulging waistlines, thinning or receding hairlines, and more.




All getting older. Except MB of course. The combination of the Arabic honey, the camel milk and the 24/7/365 sunshine all ensure that MB has not aged a day since his arrival five years back. Allah u akbar.



For the non-Irish followers, let me tell you briefly the story of Tir Na Nog – the land of everlasting youth (pronounced in English – teer naa noog) from Irish mythology (forget all that Greek & Roman crap). An Irish warrior hero called Oisin (pronounced – osh-een) was taken to the land of everlasting youth called Tir Na Nog by a beautiful lady (they will always lead you astray) called Niamh of the Golden Hair (a blond bimbo obviously). After some time in TNG Oisin got lonely for his homeland, family and friends. Niamh warned him that if he went back he must stay on horseback at all times, as if he touched the soil of Ireland he would immediately age all those years he had been away. And in the land of everlasting youth time stands still, so you just do not know how long you have lived there.




When Oisin arrived in Ireland he could find neither family nor friends, but he did come across  a group of men struggling to lift a large rock (presumably construction workers). Oisin lamented how weak Irish man had become, bent down and removed the rock on his own without any help. But in doing so he slipped from his horse, and immediately aged 300 years. Khalas (finished), as we say out these parts!




So friends & family back home, please realise that even though MB does not have any great social life out these parts, he is reasonable happy in his Arabic Tir Na Nog. He will of course travel again at Christmas to see you all, when you will witness MB wandering around HX at all times on his trusty Arabic stallion. And you can lift your own damn rocks!



This weeks photos are eclectic collection of different events back home that MB attended or was somehow involved in. Will return to a more focused photo collection next week and to a less rambling blog post! Inshallah.



Ok, enough for this week.



Adios lads.



Photo Of The Day (9) – Before the game


Photo Of The Day (7) – The Observers