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The football-loving pensioners were spending about £10,000 on their trip and wanted to keep the costs of staying in Doha to a minimum. With their friend Stephen Pelham, they opted to rent cabins at one of the now-infamous fan villages on the outskirts of the capital.
It was only when they got to the site did they spot the resemblance to Stalag Luft III, the POW camp in the classic war movie The Great Escape.
Chris, 67, joked: “We’ve nicknamed it Stalag Luft III – as per the Great Escape.
“We’ve started digging the tunnels – I’m digging Tom, Steve is digging Dick and Maxine is doing Harry.
“The telecom masts look a bit like guard towers and we might have to chop up the furniture to use as lining for the tunnels.”
Maxine, 62, added: “Steve went to bed early last night but we did a reconnaissance last night – working out the gun towers.
But as they gave the Daily Express a tour of their home from home, the trio insisted they were getting good value for their £170-a-night cabins.
The single room has self-assembly style twin beds, dressing table, table and chair, a wall fan and air conditioning unit to combat those 30C-plus temperatures. They have a built-in shower cubicle with toilet, hand basin and extractor fan.
Outside there is a communal area with a large screens to watch the matches from rows of bean bag chairs. Although there are no restaurants, the site has rows of fast food outlets serving up snacks of every nationality.
Steve, 66, said: “Before we came here, we knew what to expect.
“We knew it was going to be shipping containers. They are fine. It is what it is – it’s somewhere to sleep.The weather’s fine, everything is ok.”
Maxine added: ““It’s clean and nice. There were a couple of issues I wasn’t happy about but I went to reception and they sorted it out.
“For the time we’re going to be spending here, it’ll be fine.”
Chris continued: “I’d say it’s one down from a Premier Inn.”
The couple have a son who works as a coach for Manchester City in Dubai and regularly stay in five star luxury.
But after deciding to upgrade their flights to business class, they wanted to shave a little off accommodation costs.
“We were going to get an apartment between the three of us but the cost was ridiculous.”
Her husband, a retired civil servant, added: “It’s the disparity between a normal city with lots of hotel rooms available and here, a small country. It didn’t make a lot of sense.”
They say their first 24 hours have been a breeze, having breakfast with friends who live in Qatar and seeing some of the sights.
But like everyone else, they were astonished by Fifa’s last-minute decision to ban alcohol sales from games.
They have tickets for seven matches – including all the England fixtures – and were looking forward to a drink as well.
Steve, a Manchester-born businessman who now lives in Australia, said: “It’s the whole social thing.
“When you come to a World cup you want to have a drink and mix with other fans. That’s all been missing.”
Chris added: “The beer ban does bother us. We’re from England, so we like beer. I support Manchester United and when I go to a game, I do like a beer.”
Thousands of cabins, costing up to £370 a day, have been installed five miles from the England team’s hotel, but are a world away in terms of the facilities on offer.
One contractor described the site as “hell” adding:” The air con in the cabin barely works and sounds like a [fighter jet] is taking off. Even if you have it on all the time during the day it is still 27C. You can’t have it on at night because it is so noisy.”
The tournament organisers have said that they hope “beer vans” would be authorised to sell alcohol on the site.
But the contractors said: “We have heard that the site still hasn’t been granted an alcohol licence for the World Cup. They said it was tied up in Doha. If there is no licence, there will be no beer. There will be a lot of angry fans.”
Visitors reported difficulty in sleeping because of the noise from smoke detectors around the site, air conditioning and electricity generators.
Other sites were charging £175 per person per night for twin bed accommodation in plastic tents with no air conditioning and ‘laughable’ security involving a padlock to apply to the zip closing the tent’s main door.
Fans complained of dirty water being supplied to the accommodation and the reaction from fans in the Uk was one of shock.
One commented on social media “That’s an absolute joke man,” while another said: “Looks quite nice, Would only pay a fiver a night though.”
A third added: “Been saying it for months, these boys ain’t ready – the equivalent of half the country’s population is going.”
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