The first and last City World Cup of all time will end soon. It’s already clear that it will be the best World Cup of all time. FIFA President Gianni Infantino does not allow himself to be discussed. Strange scenes are playing out in the grandstands, the city is a boulevard of self-portrayals.

The first and last City World Cup will be sold as the best World Cup ever in a matter of days. FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who with his furiously insane speech the day before the opening game drew the world’s attention to the controversial tournament in this psychedelic desert town in the Middle East. The insane city with its illusory worlds is the scene of the great disappearance these days.

With the end of the group phase and the return home of most nations, the fans also disappear. They weren’t in the stadiums for most of the games anyway. There continue to be those who make this tournament even more bizarre than Gianni Infantino promised in his speech. In the round of 16 between the Netherlands and the USA, one block in the upper tier is well filled. It can in good conscience be described as the mood block of Khalifa Stadium. There are mostly people there who understand football as something that nobody understands. The TV cameras can’t catch the block.

When Louis van Gaal’s team once again drowned the game in the sluggishness of wait-and-see dominance, nothing moved in the stands. Only in the mood block, how could it be otherwise?, there’s a lot going on. One in the Elftal jersey is obviously the organizer. He counts down and then it starts: the Mexican wave, the La Ola wave! With great difficulty she overcomes the first curve in the stadium. Then it ends. The man in the Oranje jersey cheers! What a success. But suddenly something happens on the pitch, the USA score out of nowhere. The mood block is over the moon! “USA, USA, USA,” they shout, jumping enthusiastically in their Dutch national team jerseys. Where is the emergency exit here?

At the famous market in Doha, at the Souq Waqif, where many danced and sang after the grandiose World Cup victories of Saudi Arabia or Iran, the mood is no longer World Cup worthy. With Morocco there is only one Arab team left in this Arab tournament. That puts you in a good mood. Many fans from Latin America have already returned home. A few groups of fans move from café to restaurant to souvenir shop. But actually the area is more like a catwalk. Both women and men, dressed in traditional Islamic or Western clothing, strut back and forth dressed up. See and be seen. Maybe you will still be interviewed by one of the TV teams that have continued to place their cameras on the market.

There is also a small art museum here. Inside, a man plays an oud, the Arabic lute. Artists paint with oil paint. The Emir Al Thani is a popular motif, as well as traditional wooden merchant ships set against Doha’s modern skyline. Along with the sunset, of course. Paintings of football stars also hang in one corner. A few hours before the round of 16, an artist is busy painting the Japanese leader Wataru Endo. Does she know that he is playing for VfB Stuttgart in the Ländle? A few hours later, the professional and his team were eliminated on penalties against Croatia. It probably doesn’t bother anyone in the museum. It’s not just here in these icy rooms that the World Cup is far away.

The next room is also chilly. A German portrait hangs right next to superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer or İlkay Gündoğan? No, Toni Kroos, who hasn’t played for the national team since last summer’s European Championship, smiles at the visitors. Subsequent malice for the DFB-Elf? A beaming Neymar also hangs on the wall. Logo. That evening he celebrates a top-class samba party with his team. But where is it, the World Cup mood? After the terrific thrashing of the Brazilians against South Korea, there was a brief celebration around the Stadion 974, mainly for the camera teams, who grabbed the fans who were particularly garishly dressed.

But then people jump into buses, taxis or Uber and roll back to their hotels. After all, it’s midnight here. And where else should they go? There are no points of gathering around the arenas. No cafes. No shisha bars. No restaurants. Parking only, miles away. And expressways. Concrete desert next to the sandy desert. The party mood is then also rather desert.

Meanwhile, locals and expats while away their time in the city’s malls. They love it. Because there’s nothing else worth loving.