DOHA, Qatar (AP) The Asian Football Confederation said Sunday that Qatar’s victorious Asian Cup football team returned home to Doha to a “rapturous welcome” and was greeted by the country’s ruler and hundreds of thousands of fans.
The AFC said Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani met the players to begin a second straight night of celebrations in Doha after Qatar beat Japan 3-1 in the Asian Cup final on Friday.
“I am very happy to see the people celebrating with us, we realize how big what we did is,” said coach Felix Sanchez. “When you win a trophy like that you feel very proud, to see that the hard work sometimes gives you the reward.”
The AFC statement said players and staff were mobbed by fans, friends and family before getting on a specially decorated open-top bus to begin the trip into Doha from the airport.
“I am proud to make these people happy,” said Ali Almoez, the tournament’s top scorer. “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.”
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.