Alcohol is part of football culture in many parts of the world. Even before the kick-off, people meet for a beer together. And after the game, victory is celebrated – or defeat. At the World Cup from November 20th to December 18th in Qatar – the first in a Muslim country – there will be no such pictures.
The consumption of alcohol in public is prohibited in the emirate on the Persian Gulf. Alcohol is only available to non-Muslims – and only in selected places, such as hotel bars. However, for the masses of football fans during the World Cup in the smallest World Cup host country expected of the story, slightly less strict rules should apply to the sale and consumption of beer.
Of course, it also plays a role that a major US brewery is one of the main sponsors of the tournament. For example, the sale of beer to ticket holders in the outdoor areas around the stadiums will be permitted. However, beer may not be taken into the stadium or out of the stadium zone onto the street. Beer will also be served at the official FIFA fan festival in Al Bidda Park in the capital Doha – but only in the evening.
The Qatar World Cup organizing committee told DW: “Alcohol is not part of the Qatari culture. However, hospitality is. And that’s why fans who want to consume alcohol during the World Cup in Qatar will be able to do so too.” Nevertheless, the picture will be very different from that of previous World Cup tournaments, when crowds of fans could sing and drink in public places by the thousands.
Abrupt cessation of alcohol
For hard-drinking fans, restricting beer consumption to the outside areas of stadiums could be an incentive to get there early to get in the mood in a similar way to other open-court tournaments.
Bailey Brown, president of the North American supporters association “Independent Supporters Council”, fears that the alcohol ban in the stadium will lead to fans drinking too much before games. “I find it worrying,” Brown told DW. “I’m afraid many will think, ‘That’s the three hours I can drink.’ Then much more alcohol is consumed than if there weren’t this abrupt cessation of alcohol.”
Martha Gens sits on the board of the European fan umbrella organization “Football Supporters Europe”. The Portuguese also sees more of a danger than a benefit in the alcohol restriction. “Alcohol is part of football culture, it has to be accepted,” Gens told DW. “In reality, these bans are counterproductive. The more you try to enforce them, the more of a problem it becomes.”
Alcohol-related hooligan excesses, as at some previous World Cups, are not to be expected in Qatar. The hurdles to procuring alcohol are high. In addition, only registered ticket holders are allowed to enter Qatar during the World Cup. Both should significantly reduce the number of violent “problem fans”.
Clear rules, lack of transparency
However, the issue of alcohol can become a problem for fans in Qatar – for example if they drink in places where it is not allowed. The English fans’ association “Football Supporters Association” has therefore published a detailed guide for fans on alcohol consumption in Qatar. “Don’t bring alcohol into the country and don’t drink on the street! Otherwise you risk being deported or arrested,” it says. “There is only one liquor store in Qatar and it is only open to residents of the country.”
The famous Souq Waqif market in Qatar’s capital Doha: alcohol is not allowed to be consumed here either
US fan spokesman Baily Brown complains about the lack of “transparency in dealing with alcohol consumption”: “What happens if you get caught with alcohol in public? I’m not a big fan of gray areas.” While welcoming fans from countries with an alcohol culture, Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee makes it absolutely clear: “Fans should note that the consumption of alcohol outside of designated areas is prohibited.”
Adapted from the English by David Vorholt.