World Cup: ‘We don’t need beer for a good time’, say England fans
DOHA - No beer? Not a problem.
England fans who showed up at the Khalifa International Stadium for their team’s World Cup opener against Iran on Monday showed they did not need booze to have a good time, with many in high spirits and wearing broad smiles even under the hot Qatari afternoon sun.
The 11th-hour decision to ban the public sale of alcoholic beverages at all eight stadiums – jointly made by the host country and Fifa – came just two days before the tournament kicked off last Sunday.
The move divided the football world and drew criticism from some fans for its timing, as well as the shift away from what has become almost a tradition at the World Cup. American beer company Budweiser have partnered Fifa at the World Cup since the 1986 edition in Mexico.
But fans The Straits Times spoke to were unperturbed.
Michael Potts, 28, who is in Qatar with his wife, Olivia, said the beer ban did “not really” affect their World Cup experience. He said: “We were not really planning to drink much anyway. It is what it is. We can still go to the fan park afterwards.”
Olivia, 30, added with a smile: “It’s a shame (to have the ban) two days before. It’s wasn’t ideal. But we will live with it.”
Alcohol will still be served in hospitality areas within stadiums and inside the official Fifa fan zone, as well as selected hotel bars. Spectators can also still purchase non-alcoholic beer at stadiums.
At the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday, when Ecuador beat the host nation 2-0 in the tournament opener, a Budweiser poster at a concession stand read that it was “proud to serve its products in compliance with the local rules and regulations”.
Another England fan, who only gave his name as Efthimis, said local residents were not surprised when the news were announced. The 45-year-old Greek had studied in England for five years and has lived in Qatar for the last four.
“We always knew there would not be alcohol inside the stadium, there was no way people would be roaming around with beers in their hands,” he said.
“For us, being expats working and living here, the thinking is simple: If we don’t like the rules, we just don’t come.
“You can still find (alcoholic) drinks here. You can go to five-star hotels and have a good time. You don’t have to drink in public places.”
Efthimis also said he had experienced the same alcohol bans in other European countries like France and likened the move to a smoking ban, saying “it’s not a big deal for me”.
Another England fan, wearing a Tottenham Hotspur jersey and who only wanted to be identified as Mike, added: “If people want to get alcohol here it’s quite easily accessible.
“I think it shouldn’t affect the atmosphere in the stadiums. We’re here to watch football and focus is on football. We’re here to enjoy ourselves, we don’t need alcohol to do that.”