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The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Two weeks in Qatar, an experience that will stay with MAST student forever

Junior Nicolas Alvarez saw the Argentinian national team play at the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Nicolas Alvarez in Qatar. Courtesy Nicolas Alvarez.

The stress from schoolwork and exams was replaced by unrestrainable excitement and anxiety when MAST students were released into Thanksgiving break on Nov. 17, 2022. The anxiety, unlike the anxiety contracted from hours of schoolwork and responsibility, was a passionate anxiety, a nationalistic one that comes from years of waiting for one thing: the FIFA World Cup. 

Coming back from break, school responsibilities were lowered on the priority list of many students. Going to class started to feel optional as Peacock, Hulu, fuboTV, and FOX Sports replaced classwork and students brought their laptops and iPads from home to watch the games during class. Eating lunch was also pushed under “watching a game” on students’ priority lists, students choosing to not buy lunch if it meant they could get a seat in front of the screen projector showing the games. Middle schooler or senior, everyone was huddled in front of the games. Walking the hallways, you were bound to see at least five different national team jerseys and colors of face paint. During the last weeks of November and the first weeks of December, there was hardly any student fully paying attention to a teacher’s lecture from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., the two designated time periods for games. For many students it was difficult to muffle the screams of excitement or disappointment that came with a goal in these intense hours of live soccer and many teachers suffered disruptions in their classes. The days Argentina, Brazil, or Spain played, teachers marked half of their students absent as parents lined up without fault to pick up their kids to watch a game. 

Junior Nicolas Alvarez was only able to witness the last of the World Cup madness at MAST. From Nov. 20 to Dec. 5, he was in Qatar.

“I arrived in Qatar the day that the World Cup started, so the game Qatar vs. Ecuador. I arrived and watched the game on TV and in two days’ time I went to my first actual game in the stadium,” Alvarez said. Arriving in Qatar, Alvarez was extremely grateful that he would be able to experience his second live World Cup. He traveled to Russia in 2018 to watch Argentina’s three games against Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria. 

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“I felt excited,” Alvarez said. “All the World Cups … provide a different excitement.”

Alvarez’s reason for going to Qatar, like many others, was to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity, but for him it meant much more. It meant standing a few feet from his idols, Lionel Messi, Julian Alvarez, Enzo Fernandez, and Angel Di Maria, and watching them enjoy the sport he and his family value so much. 

“I love soccer and I’m very passionate about it … I think soccer is … extremely important in my life and my family’s life,” Alvarez said. “It’s a way to escape all obligations and I think it provides tremendous joy for all of us. Not only playing, but also watching our favorite teams … Argentina or River Plate.” Alvarez’s teammates on the MAST boys’ soccer team can also see the passion for the sport in their striker. 

“Quarterfinals of GMAC he scored a perfect hat-trick,” his teammate, junior Lucas Porcelli said. “Right foot, header, left foot.”

Going to Qatar was not only special to Alvarez because his national team, Argentina, would be playing. A different world of tradition and culture also added to the awe Alvarez felt at the end of his two weeks in Qatar. More than two years before the World Cup was scheduled to start, hired construction workers were busy turning the stadium blueprints into reality and to the shock of many, turning Qatar into one of the countries with the most modern-industrial infrastructure in the Middle East. Qatari workers were not the only ones realizing the dream of FIFA, however. Workers from all over the Middle East immigrated to Qatar to work on this project that would later become a national sensation. 

“There are a lot of workers coming from India, Pakistan, [and] Bangladesh and they were all super low profile, super nice. That surprised me. They all spoke in a very low tone and they were all very respectful,” Alvarez said. 

Because of the cultural differences in society in many Middle Eastern countries, there was some doubt about whether there would be restrictions on those who visited Qatar for the World Cup. Alcohol, for example, is known to be restricted unless it is used for religious purposes or important ceremonies. This restriction was later reflected in the soccer stadiums; no alcohol was sold in the stadium and those caught violating the restriction would be asked to dispose of the alcohol and if not, asked to leave. Other cultural practices, like behavioral standards for females and males, worried women as they entered Qatar. However, there were no restrictions on the clothing choice of foreign women in Qatar or how they interacted with the men around them. 

“There were women of all countries and everything worked perfectly, nothing happened. They were very accepting,” Alvarez said. 

Outside of the stadium, Alvarez was able to find many great experiences both in the realm of soccer and the realm of being in a new place. 

“Highlights were [that] we went to the desert…I got to ride a camel which is very nice and also we went snowboarding, but in the sand. I think I still have sand in my ear,” Alvarez said. “[Also] we went a lot of days [to] the shopping [mall] next to us where there were paddle courts so I learned how to play paddle.” From his experiences overall, there is one that he still can not believe happened and will stay with him for the rest of his life.

“We went to play soccer…in a park that was next to a stadium [that] a little later Germany played [at]…and the two brothers and the dad of Julian Alvarez, who is the striker for Argentina, were there and we got to play with them. It was very cool,” Alvarez said. 

Two weeks before Argentina became the World Cup champion, Alvarez was back in school and along with his classmates struggled to keep up with his school workload, “thanks to Ms. Avendano for the most part”, as Argentina entered the final stages of the World Cup. However, although he was under stress, his trip to Qatar, “was definitely worth it because although yes, I missed one week of school it was the best experience of my life. So, even though my teachers and my grades didn’t like it that much, the time I had in Qatar I never had in my life.”

On Dec. 18, Alvarez put his school responsibilities aside and watched anxiously as Argentina played the final game to take home the World Cup.

“At the time of the final I could not think of anything else,” Alvarez said. “When we won we were on the floor, I remember. We were crying…and we went to celebrate outside in the streets with everyone.” 

For Nicolas Alvarez, like for all juniors, this school year is key in the future of his education. Going to Qatar was a momentary shift in his priorities that he does not regret. Now, Alvarez is back to prioritizing school and his routine has gone back to normal, except for the third golden star on his jersey. 

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About the Contributor
Mercedes Halliburton
Mercedes Halliburton, Managing Editor
Mercedes Halliburton is a senior at MAST Academy. She is in her fourth year at the school, arriving in 2019 from St. Theresa Catholic School. Halliburton enjoys MAST more than her previous school because she believes that there is more freedom. Halliburton likes MAST because she enjoys swimming and water. She also enjoys reading and writing, saying that it is her favorite subject. Her least favorite subject is math, and her hardest year was junior year. She doesn’t have a least favorite teacher and she likes most of the teachers. She also likes MAST because it has a nice view and is so close to the beach. Even though MAST is fun, Halliburton claims it is also a challenging school with many hard classes.
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