What is the World Cup in Qatar like for fans?

Fans in Qatar who wanted to experience Sunday’s opening game in the traditional way many celebrate the World Cup – drinking in groups with other fans – had two options in the conservative Islamic country.

They could head to FIFA’s official fan festival, which organizers have declared is the place to enjoy a Budweiser beer after reversing the cycle two days before opening Sunday and banning the sale of alcohol in stadiums. Or they can head to one of the few bars in Qatar aimed at Westerners that are licensed to sell alcohol.

To see how fans experienced Sunday’s opener first-hand, ESPN sent a couple of reporters onto the field to explore both options.

Mark Ogden went in search of what was rumored to be the most expensive beer in Qatar, and ended up at the Marriott Marquis to see if a pint was really worth $92, as the internet claimed. Tom Hamilton went to the official FIFA Fan Fest in Doha, the organizers didn’t seem prepared for the number of fans who wanted to join in, and then the party ended almost at half time anyway.

This is the tale of two fan experiences at the World Cup in Qatar on opening day.


A Western Experience in Doha at the Marriott Hotel (by Mark Ogden)

During the early days of Russia 2018, football fans from all over Moscow drank dry. Many bars and drinking spots in the Russian capital ran out of beer within a week of the World Cup kicking off. why? Because soccer fans love a beer (or two) before, during and after a game, and even a big city like Moscow has struggled to handle the demand.

Four years later, it’s a very different story in Qatar. As a Muslim country that restricts alcohol consumption, the usual football fan experience has always been a challenge during the World Cup. This is even more true since the Qatari authorities banned the sale of beer in the stadiums hosting the Qatar 2022 matches just two days before the start of the tournament.

Fans who still want a beer are left with two options: drink expensive alcohol in FIFA-sanctioned fan zones (and endure long lines for the privilege of doing so), or find a hotel with a bar that has a license to sell beer.

Before the start of Qatar 2022, one bar was given the dubious distinction of serving the most expensive pint anywhere in the country – and possibly the world – amid unsubstantiated claims that it would charge $92 for a beer during the World Cup.

So, with hosts Qatar facing Ecuador in the opening game, ESPN headed to that bar – Champions Sports Bar at the Marriott Marquis Hotel – to find out if they charge $92 for a beer and what kind of atmosphere you can have among fans from all over the world.

First things first: the beer didn’t cost $92 per pint, although any fan willing to spend QAR369 ($102 or £85) could buy a massive six-pint Heineken container with its own tap, which allowed them to. Top up their cups at any time. A straight pint of Heineken or Budweiser costs 60 reais ($16.50 or £14) each, while a half rack of ribs will set you back 215 reais ($59 or £49).

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Mark Ogden shares his experience watching the opening match of the World Cup from a bar in Doha.

But despite the steep prices, the Champions Sports Bar, which has at least 40 screens to show the game, was packed and told you two things: that football fans really like to drink while watching the game, but also that football is a unifying force in a much more organic way. What could FIFA President Gianni Infantino make of his grand claims of taking trophies to Iran or North Korea.

Fans from Argentina, Australia, the United States, Wales, England, the Netherlands, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Poland, Morocco, Ecuador, Brazil and Iran packed a small space in the Champions Bar on Sunday to watch the tournament opener. Within this group of nations, there are some rivalries that are deeply rooted in football and some that extend beyond the sport and into all levels of hostility – but in the World Cup, it becomes a melting pot.

The loudest and most boisterous were the Argentine supporters, singing their national anthems and songs Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, but Welsh fans joined them in their own tributes Gareth Bale. The American fans loudly chanted “America and the United States” while the England fans responded to the Argentine songs with chants of their own.

The Iranians hugged the Welsh, the Americans sat with the Dutch, and the Australians shared tables with the England fans. And they were all drinking expensive beer while doing so.

Three England fans from Stoke were hoping for a ticket to the England game but were willing to watch any match they could get into, while one Wales fan, who admitted he was born and bred in England, said he fell in love. With traveling with Welsh after watching their run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals in France.

And there was an American fan Daniel From Nebraska who just got to Doha and decided to give the bar a try after finding the queues very long and exhausting at the fanfest.

The fans spending Sunday at Champions Sports Bar all had similar stories and different backgrounds, but each wanted to watch the game with a beer.

Another element that seemed to unite the masses watching the omnipresent screens was the support of Ecuador, not Qatar.

When Inner Valencia He scored in the third minute to give Ecuador the lead, conceding his goal with prolonged cheers, followed by boos when the referee ruled it out for offside after a VAR check. But when Valencia scored from the penalty spot after 13 minutes after being brought down by goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb, Ecuador’s support inside the Marriott bar was loud and clear.

There would be many different reasons for this – the ban on alcohol at the Games, the cost of travel to and accommodation in Qatar, and the general feeling that the tournament should not be staged in this small country for several unrelated concerns. football.

But while FIFA and Infantino speak of being a force for good in football, the reality has been confirmed in a Doha pub – it’s the fans who make the game, not the administrators or systems that win the race to host football’s biggest. Competition.


The Fan Fest Where Many Fans Are Turned Away (by Tom Hamilton)

About an hour and a half before kick-off, as Morgan Freeman delivered his eulogy on world equality, participants at the FIFA Fan Fest in Al Bidda hung on his every word. The phones were capturing the moment. Local families stood together when the World Cup officially started, doing everything they could to remember the feelings and emotions they experienced at that very place. The fan park was already packed.

Two hundred meters away, on the other side of the barriers and security gates, thousands were trying to join the party. But it was disorganised.

Crowds surged forward, trying to advance their way to the front of the queue. The security services seemed, at times, overwhelmed. One of the volunteers was asking those with the wrong entry pass to turn back while children were crying in the front. The high pressure of the crowd saw the bouncers physically shoving the visitors.

I felt claustrophobic, there was some panic. An England supporter Stowe later told ESPN about the bruising he suffered while being forced into the blockers. “It wasn’t fun,” he said.

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Tom Hamilton shares his experience from the fan fest for the opening match of the World Cup in Qatar.

Eventually the numbers reached such a weight of pressure that the area was closed. Visitors were turned away, the road was blocked, and the metro station exit was closed. Those who arrived early inside were unaware of the chaos outside. They were stunned by the opening ceremony, and they dared to dream of the potential success of their country.

There was plenty of support for Qatar, with those scarlet jerseys outnumbering the plentiful ones from Argentina, Morocco, Tunisia and Brazil. There were a few in support of Ecuador too – those who arrived too late for tickets to the match.

Each of the fans inside had their own reasons for being there. A group of five Qatar supporters moved to the country in the past decade, having grown up in Persia and Jordan. By the end of the first half, they had taken full advantage of the QAR 50 ($13.73) Budweiser for sale.

Although beer is not available inside the stadiums on match day, it is for sale in the fan area. The stations you sell are discreet — hidden away in park corners, rather than front and center like other sponsor activities. While non-alcoholic beer was readily available, the richer variety was only available for purchase once the match had begun. At kickoff, the barriers were opened and once fans were allowed into the tortuous arrangement of getting to their beers, they were able to walk away with a pint after 10 minutes of queuing.

Half an hour before the start of the match and the chief of ceremonies was on stage entertaining the crowd by pitting two Qatari fans against two Ecuadorean fans, there was already a large queue waiting to buy a beer. A Dutch fan named Laurens traveled to Doha from Utrecht, and blogged about the experience on his website. Elsewhere a group of Iranian fans were dancing, each wearing different T-shirts with messages about gender equality.

The loudest cheer before the match from the local fans was the speech of Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the view of his father, Hamad bin Khalifa. Some local fans told ESPN they never thought the moment would come, fearing the championship would be out of Qatar within 12 years of the date it was originally awarded to that part of the world. But now he was here. “It means everything,” said one father, holding his sleeping little daughter on his shoulder. Another gave his son Muhammad. “Like Salah, it was named after him,” he said. He too was from Egypt and moved to Doha to teach.

Qatar were clear underdogs against Ecuador in Sunday’s opening game, but there was still a sense of intense anticipation among the fans. That was until Ecuador scored in the third minute. Various small chants such as “VAR, VAR, VAR” and offside protests were made. Those hopes were for nothing, though, as Ecuador dominated the first half and went into halftime with a 2-0 lead.

The crowd inside the fans’ area thinned out during the half-time with the doors opened and the supporting referees directed away from the area towards the metro north and south. Some decided to stay sitting on the floor.

A Wales fan was looking forward to his team’s match on Monday and decided to take part in the festival to experience the atmosphere. He’s staying in the fan village, in one of the cabins. Talk about how he was put down for 100r there to watch one of the matches on the big screen installed. This will allow you to access the screen and grab a meal and a soft drink. Even if you don’t want refreshments, you still have to pay full price. Did not sit properly.

When the match was away from the hosts, the fans’ arena was empty. Some stayed to drink until the evening, but the majority left. Supporters and tourists tried to sail their way home. Even a few thousand metros inside and lack of capacity, speakers carried by different security guards were repeatedly playing copies of the same message – equivalent to: This area is full, go elsewhere. The World Cup was on and off.

For some, it will be a night they will never forget – the start of a four-week football festival marking the end of a 12-year wait. But for others it would have been a stressful experience, one that should have been prevented with better planning.

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