DOHA, Qatar (AP) – The 2010 World Cup in South Africa had Shakira. The 1998 tournament in France had Ricky Martin.
For many fans, the unofficial soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar is quickly becoming the incessant chanting of the street marshals, better known as the Last Mile Marshals.
Sitting in highchairs more commonly used by lifeguards at swimming pools across Doha, these migrant workers have become a staple of the Middle East’s inaugural World Cup.
They point visitors flocking to this Arabian Peninsula nation in the right direction in their search for public transportation. It’s an important crowd control measure as some 1.2 million fans are expected to flood Qatar, a country of 3 million people.
The vast majority of marshals are from Kenya and Ghana. They say they responded to job advertisements in August and September before the World Cup.
After a monotonous start, some marshals are now singing or chanting their instructions to the fans. Megaphones they carry blast the recorded message over and over and over again.
The instructions cause laughter among fans, who often join in the chants.
“Which direction?” the fans sing.
“This way,” the ushers reply, pointing a giant foam finger at a station on Doha’s new massive subway built for the tournament.
The exchange then finds its rhythm and almost becomes a song: “Metro, Metro, Metro, so, so, so.”
Abubakar Abbas from Kenya says it all started with quelling boredom on his first few days at work.
“The fans just walked by without engagement,” Abbas told The Associated Press from his high chair outside the Souq Waqif subway station from Time. That’s how I came up with the idea and thank goodness it’s trending now.”
The World Cup in Qatar has already provided memorable moments on the pitch, including Argentina’s surprise defeat by Saudi Arabia and Germany’s defeat by Japan.
Outside the stadiums, the marshalls’ trance singing lingers in people’s minds.
“Even when I sleep at night, I hear ‘subway, subway, subway’ ringing in my head,” he said.
Follow Lujain Jo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lujainjo.
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