After four years of anticipation, the FIFA World Cup started on Sunday, and millions of fans have flocked to Qatar, the host country this year. This is the first time ever that a Middle Eastern, Muslim country has hosted the World Cup, and it has come with a lot of drama, which fans are not terribly happy about.
It’s never a good idea to anger sports fans, particularly in such a high-profile event as the World Cup — one of the most watched sporting events on the planet.
As one British fan, dressed up in the provocative outfit of an English crusader, told reporters, it’s the fans that make soccer.
“And the problem is, is what they don’t realize in places like Qatar is the fans are the essence of the game. We are what makes football. It’s not the corporates. They help financially, obviously, in the background. But it’s also the fans that make the football. And we are the football,” the fan said.
An England fan in Qatar speaks to TalkTV about the treatment of fans at the World Cup.
— TalkTV (@TalkTV) November 20, 2022
The fact that this fan even dressed up as a crusader is bound to be offensive to some people in a Muslim country.
In a place like Qatar that already has many restrictions, wearing an outfit that will rile up controversy and conflict between this fan and others, which could feed into tensions that are already high as many fans are upset over this World Cup in Qatar.
From disapproval over the general state of affairs in Qatar to the surprising decision by the host country to not sell beer at stadiums, there has been a lot of head-shaking over this competition.
Qatar is considered by many to basically be a modern-day slave state that exploits migrant workers, particularly in recent years as the country has been building stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup, Amnesty International reported.
“The abuse and exploitation of low paid migrant workers, sometimes amounting to forced labour and human trafficking, have been extensively documented since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar,” Amnesty International noted.
“In a separate high-profile case first reported in May 2018, a group of 1,200 workers went unpaid for several months and went weeks without running water or electricity.”
Yet, despite this, Qatar was still picked back in 2010 to be the host country.
But, aside from the glaring human rights issue, things got worse for fans on the surface level when Qatar decided to ban beer sales in the stadiums, just days before the first game, the New York Times reported.
As a Muslim country, Qatar has never had widespread alcohol sales, but it was permitted in certain hotels and bars, the Times noted.
For the World Cup, which is a huge beer sales event, Qatar even compromised to allow beer to be sold at stadiums, in specific, restricted areas, the Times reported.
After all, Budweiser is a major sponsor for the World Cup.
But then, Qatar changed its mind and banned beer in the stadium on Friday — two days before the first game.
“The decision, announced by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, was an abrupt about-face by Qatar, and the latest flash point in the ongoing culture clash inherent in staging the tournament in a small, conservative Middle Eastern monarchy,” the Times reported.
FIFA explained in a statement that the decision was made in order to have an “enjoyable, respectful and pleasant experience for all fans.”
FIFA statement doesn’t explain why the decision was last minute, just that it was made to ensure enjoyable experience for all… and there’s always Bud Zero, they say. pic.twitter.com/XYoh8fILcm
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) November 18, 2022
Budweiser responded with a tweet simply saying, “Well, this is awkward.”
FIFA also thanked Budweiser for its owner ABInbev for its understanding and continuous support. Bud’s response speaks for itself pic.twitter.com/5guvjnrC0Z
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) November 18, 2022
But there’s more. Beer and human rights abuses may be the main headline issues, but fans are restricted in other ways as well.
Not all religious practices, free speech and actions are welcomed in Qatar, the U.S. Embassy warned.
“Activities like protests, assemblies of large groups, religious proselytizing or advocacy of atheism, and speech critical of the government of Qatar or the religion of Islam, may be criminally prosecuted in Qatar. Qatar allows some non-Muslim religious practice in designated areas like Doha’s Religious Complex, but all faiths are not accommodated equally,” the embassy wrote.
Conservative dress is required in many areas.
“Many public areas in Qatar have dress codes requiring that both men and women cover shoulders, chests, stomachs, and knees, and that tight leggings be covered by a long shirt or dress,” the embassy added.
Along with this, sex outside of marriage and homosexuality is also prohibited in Qatar, the embassy warned fans.
With the various restrictions that fans are facing in Qatar, many are hearkening back to the question that has been puzzling fans for 12 years: Why was Qatar even chosen to host in the first place?
There are all sorts of theories. FIFA is phenomenally corrupt after all, as was made amply clear in 2015 when officials were indicted on counts of corruption and racketeering, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
But no matter what induced FIFA to let Qatar host, what many already knew has now become amply clear: Qatar hosting the World Cup is just a bad idea.
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