LUSAIL, Qatar: Football supporters watch the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final football match between Egypt's Al-Ahly and Germany's Bayern Munich on a giant screen in Lusail, around 20Km north of the Qatari capital Doha, on Monday. – AFP

LUSAIL, Qatar: A drive-in cinema opened during Qatar's coronavirus crisis to offer respite from strict distancing rules switched from horror films to football fever on Monday to show Bayern Munich's Club World Cup semi-final against Al-Ahly. Egyptian expats cheering Ahly gathered alongside Doha's Bayern backers to watch on the big screen as the African and European champions slugged it out at the Ahmad Bin Ali stadium 25 kilometers (15 miles) away.

"Actually we did not choose the stadium because of (the requirement for) COVID-19 tests," said Egyptian Wael Abdelhady who has lived in Doha for 10 years. "The other option was watching it at home and we prefer to be here!" Around him, food delivery drivers dropped off takeaway meals to hungry fans as they sat back in their pick-up trucks and off-roaders, watching Robert Lewandowski score twice to give Bayern a 2-0 win.

The Germans will face Mexican side Tigres in the final tomorrow. Bayern fan Jad Razek said the drive-in was "better to be with the family". "It's also a different experience than what we have at the stadium so it's a new adventure," he said as children ate popcorn from a bucket nearby.

'Smart idea'

The drive-in, which can host more than 150 cars, had previously shown Disney family favorites like "Bambi" and horror movies including "The Blair Witch Project" and the 1931 Boris Karloff classic "Frankenstein". It launched in November during the annual Ajyal film festival when cinemas, as they are now, were subject to strict limits on attendance and tough distancing rules. "It's amazing, it's a very smart idea with the cars -- even more with COVID and all. It's better," said Bayern supporting Frenchman Talal Saoudi as the brightly-lit skyscrapers of the new Lusail district twinkled behind the big screen.

The venue, which also showed Tigres' surprise win over Brazil's Palmeiras in the other semi-final on Sunday, charges $40 per car which makes economic and practical sense for family groups who would all have to take a coronavirus test in order to watch the match live. "Bringing audiences together at safe social distances, the open-air experience of drive-in cinemas is a perfect way to bring the excitement of the game to the community at a time when it's challenging for many to go to a game," said Doha Film Institute chief executive Fatma Hassan Alremaihi. - AFP