On the morning of the friendly against Al-Ahli Saudí there has been huge excitement about the presence of FC Barcelona in Qatar for the first time ever, with large numbers of fans gathering at the hotel, as well as some familiar visitors.

Former Barça players Xavi Hernández and Seydou Keita, who are both now playing in the Qatari league, popped by to visit their former colleagues. The ex-captain, who left the club in 2015 of 25 years of service, is now wearing the colours of Al-Sadd, while the Malian is at the Jaish Sports Club.

Members of the Qatari royal family and the CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker also paid visits. The senior executive of Barça’s main sponsor was joined by FCB president Josep Maria Bartomeu for a group photo with the first team squad, along with vice-presidents Jordi Mestre and Manel Arroyo; the commissioner for Espai Barça Jordi Moix and director Maria Teixidor.

The team was also welcomed by high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim, who became Qatar’s finest Olympian of all time when he won silver at the Rio Games last summer.

Media out in force

The local press has been following the squad from the moment they touched down on Qatari soil. The main sports channel, beIN Sports, interviewed technical secretary Robert Fernández on Monday night and on Tuesday morning president did likewise with Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has also been speaking to Al Kass TV, the 24-hour sports channel in Qatar.

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