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In November 2022, I was able to tick another item off the bucket list which was to attend the FIFA World Cup (WC). Having already attended both the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics on points, booking FIFA World Cup with Aeroplan points was the next challenge. The whole WC process began in November 2021 when even more flights to the Middle East became available on Aeroplan, thanks to their partnership with Etihad, and eventually with Gulf Air, Oman Air, and more recently even Emirates!
Booking Flights: FIFA World Cup with Aeroplan points
A full year in advance with WC dates locked in, I had to wait until the return flight dates were available to book on Aeroplan. I also wanted to take advantage of being in the Middle East and visit few other countries while in Qatar. Having already been to Dubai, I decided to add Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman to my WC itinerary.
An important caveat to my trip – I was the lucky guy that won the Worldwide Priority Reward (WPR) when Aeroplan Executives were on the weekly live session ‘What’s the Point?’ (hosted by PMB). WPR voucher can be applied to one flight reward, for 50% off the price in points. Normally earned by Aeroplan Super Elite members for reaching Status Qualifying Dollar (SQD) thresholds, it was applicable on any award ticket worldwide (up to Signature/Business Class) and I wanted to take full advantage.
Due to dynamic pricing, Toronto (YYZ) – Doha (DOH) flights on Air Canada (AC) were already going for over 150,000 points for an Economy Latitude fare, even a year out. AC Business seats were going for over 300K points so I opted to go for Economy Latitude fare with the hopes of using my e-Upgrades closer to the date, and for full flexibility with the flights in case I was able to secure more WC match tickets as the tournament went on and didn’t want to pay any change fees. With the 50% off voucher, the 150K was now only 75K. Other options to get to DOH from YYZ were Etihad and Egypt Air through their respective hubs, however I went with the direct flight for more convenience. Eventually I could not upgrade to business class but was I able to select the Emergency row exit seat and had ample leg room for the 12hr flight to Doha. Plus with Maple Leaf lounge access before the flight thanks to the Amex Reserve card (PMB Affiliate link), the vacation started off on the right foot.
The Side trip
In the quest to maximize my points with the Worldwide Priority Reward attached to the booking, I also added a side trip to my original itinerary – Kuwait for a few days, and then on to Bahrain and Oman after the WC ended. A fully flexible business class ticket from Doha to Kuwait was 58,000 points plus $160 in taxes and fees. I booked fully flexible again just in case I got last minute WC ticket. Even a 1 hour flight on Etihad in business was an amazing experience, plus the business class lounge in Abu Dhabi is one of the best I have been to. So my updated itinerary was YYZ-DOH-AUH-KWI-AUH-DOH-MCT-FRA-YYZ, a combination of flights on Air Canada, Etihad, and Oman Air. A separate post covering my side trip, including sharing business class cabin with a Falcon, and the related issues with booking this routing, is coming up soon 🙂
Getting FIFA World Cup tickets
Getting tickets to the World cup was broken into 4 stages. The first two were without knowing exactly who is playing while the last two are once the tournament brackets were announced. Here is a crash course on getting WC tickets;
The first round is a lottery round where everyone submits the tickets they want. Needless to say I applied for the most sought after tickets like the opening match, Semis and Finals. The second round is a “first-come-first- serve” round and when this round opened up, the opening match, Semi Finals and Finals were already unavailable.
My goal was to see a match in all 8 new stadiums build for the games and to watch all the Canada Games too. Given over $300 Billion was spent on these state of the art stadiums, I wanted to check them all out. I was lucky to get 10 tickets, one in each stadium, one for ‘Round of 16’ and a Quarter Final match. Having a ticket also entitled you to a Hayya card which allowed one to use the Metro for free so getting to and from the games cost nothing and I was very-very impressed on how efficient the Metro ran. Granted getting back from the games took longer than getting there given then there were 50,000 + fans all headed to the station at one time but overall getting to and from the stadiums was smooth.
The third round of tickets are when the official schedule with all the teams are in place and it was at this time that I was able to get my Team Canada matches. One tip for getting World Cup tickets: FIFA also has an official FIFA World Cup Resale Tickets Site that opens up once all the rounds to purchase tickets are done. This way if you or your guests are unable to attend a game you can have peace of mind by selling it directly back to FIFA with the click of a button through your FIFA tickets account. The cost to re-sell tickets officially through FIFA is only 5% of the face value of the ticket. So if you re-sell a $100 ticket you would get back $95. That credit is applied to your original method of payment once the WC was over.
My favourite World Cup games
My favorite game was Saudi Arabia (SA) vs Argentina where SA surprised everyone and won the match. The only game Argentina lost in the whole tournament. The reason it was my favorite was because I got the true WC experience during and after the game. I wore my Argentina jersey to the game yet was in a section surrounded by Saudis. Needless to say when they took the lead in the match it was total fan frenzy in my zone. I kept getting bumped around but was told very politely “Sorry brother, we are just living the dream right now”. The Saudi King even declared 2 national holidays in SA after the match. That is how big of a win it was for the team and country. Getting out of the stadium was also a great WC moment listening to all the Saudi fans cheer their recent victory. I don’t speak Arabic but I am sure they were dissing Messi in their chants, ha! After the match as I did a little sightseeing around Doha, whenever I passed a Saudi fan they would point at me and my Argentina Jersey and make sure I knew Saudi beat the mighty Messi, in a very polite and humorous way. This I believe is what the WC is all about, beaming in national pride for the rest of the day when your home team does the unthinkable.
Second favorite game was the Argentina vs Holland Quarter-final. It was the one game I “splurged” on the ticket and got a good seat and was it worth it. The game went into overtime and penalty kicks and I had a great seat right on the halfway point of the field right above the press box. Got a clear view of each nail biting penalty kick.
Third favorite game had to be the first Canada match vs Belgium. To hear the Canadian anthem play and have every Canadian fan sign along and then to watch Canada score its 1st WC goal and to hear the Canadian crowd go wild was just electrifying… I had goosebumps all through the match.
Honourable mention: At the Canada Vs Croatia game my friends and I met Ivana Knoll, former Miss Croatia, IG Influencer and Team Croatia Superfan. She was in the media in Qatar for her colorful Croatian outfits which were a bit too “revealing” for Qatar. I got a photo with her and got quite a few colorful comments when I shared it on my IG. Here is her IG page link. Feel free to visit my IG page for highlights from my 15 games at the WC.
My favourite World Cup Stadiums
One common theme at all the stadiums was the intense security at the gates. My first day I was a newbie and had to check in an item in the “prohibited items” tent. However by my thrid game I had become a pro at clearing security at the entrance. It’s like going through airport screeners, as long as you don’t beep, you are good to go. They also check for food in your bags as food, drinks including water are prohibited as FIFA wants to make sure you spend 10 Riyals on a bottle of water or Karak Tea that is regularly priced for 1 Riyal at the local grocery store.
Another common theme was the poor quality of food at the stadiums. Given McDonalds was a major sponsor of the WC I was surprised that McDonalds didn’t have the food licence for the stadiums. Outside each stadium there is a fan zone with booths from the major sponsors – Qatar Airlines offered free face painting, which was very popular. There was also a big screen that was playing live games and a DJ that was spinning the tunes even after the match was over.
Having seen a game in all 8 stadiums my top 2 favorites were Stadium 974 and Al Bayt. Stadium 974 was constructed out of old shipping containers and both the outside and inside were very creatively designed.
Al Bayt, where the opening match was hosted, was designed to look like a circus tent and again both the outside and inside had creative construction elements to it.
An honourable mention also goes to Al Janoub Stadium, because it had air conditioning under the seats and was had a temple like marble exterior effect to it. Another fun part of my trip to Al Janoub was the bus ride there. As I got there early I got an entire greyhound bus just for myself to the theatre. I felt so VIP.
Sightseeing in Qatar
Overall, I had 15 game tickets, and spent about 30 days in Doha, which included several days of sightseeing between game days. Here were some of my favourite sights in town;
- Al Zubarah Archaeological Site – Qatar’s only UNESCO heritage site. (an hour drive from Doha)
- Souq Waqif and the Corniche.
- Pearl – Lunch at Lobster Burger is also worth it.
- Katara Cultural Village.
- National Museum of Qatar (shaped like a Desert Rose) and very beautiful building itself to visit if you love good architecture, though the museum itself could have had better exhibits.
- Museum of Islamic Art, designed by renowned Architect I.M Pei. Again the building was an architectural marvel to visit and so where the exhibits.
- Umm AL Seneem Park, it has the world’s longest air conditioned outdoor path, with a Tim Hortons at the gas station next door too 😉
A look back – FIFA World Cup with Aeroplan
The Middle East has become a lot more accessible and affordable in terms of flights, given all the great Aeroplan partners in the region. Truly a dream come true for me, I have to thank Anshul (again) for inviting Aeroplan Executives Mark Nasr and Scott O’Leary to his weekly live sessions, who gave away the Worldwide Priority Pass prize that I took full advantage of – a terrific perk to fly around the world.
If you have any questions around booking World Cup tickets, or my travel to Qatar, please drop a comment below. Hope to see you all in Toronto, at BMO Field in 2026.