Qatari players celebrated on return from Asian Cup victory
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatar's footballers have paraded the Asian Cup through the streets of Doha on an open-top bus decorated with a picture of the team on the side.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met the players to toast the 2022 World Cup host nation winning its first major football title by beating Japan 3-1 in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
"I am proud to make these people happy," said Ali Almoez, the tournament's top scorer with nine goals. "I am proud of this thing and all the players are. For 40 years Qatari people did not celebrate, now we will celebrate for the next four years and not stop."
Qatar couldn't fly directly home from the tournament because the United Arab Emirates has cut travel, diplomatic and economic ties with Doha since 2017.
Players and the backroom staff were mobbed by fans, friends and family at the airport.
"I am very happy to see the people celebrating with us, we realize how big what we did is," coach Felix Sanchez said. "When you win a trophy like that you feel very proud, to see that the hard work sometimes gives you the reward."
Victory will give Qatar renewed hope of being able to compete against the world's best teams when it qualifies for the first time for the World Cup — as hosts — in 2022.