Doha, December 13
Let’s be clear: They definitely wanted beer. So a group of guys from England’s Nottinghamshire — veterans of boozy football matches back home — fumed when they discovered no beer would be sold until halftime of the Brazil-Croatia game at the main Doha fan zone, one of the few places where World Cup fans can have alcohol.
While outrage was a given, there was also cultural introspection.
“It’s weird!” roared Mark Walker, a giant of a rugby player, though he first used a far riper adjective.
One of his friends suggested the absence of alcohol made it possible for local women and children to attend the matches. “You’re watching the match, you have a beer. It’s what you do,” Walker insisted.
Another friend, James Vernon, countered, “At home you have people who are only there to drink and fight. This way it’s only people who are really interested in the game.”
Qatar has presented its World Cup — the first ever in an Arab, Muslim nation — as a chance for different cultures to come side by side and get along. And few cultures are further apart than one where alcohol is largely forbidden and one where drinking a cold one at a match is sacred.
Everyone has adjusted, not that they had a choice. Fans who want to can pre-game at a hotel bar, though drinks are expensive. Others are happy with the alcohol-free experience, saying the absence of rowdy, drunken fans at the stadium or in the streets makes the World Cup safer and easier to enjoy — with less harassment of women. — AP
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