Abdulla Murad Ali placed his hands on his heart and stated that his country welcomes all visitors to the World Cup. The Qatari financier wants football fans to think of Qatar as their second home. His one and only request? They must also respect the culture.
Qatar is an Islamic country, and alcohol is considered haram [forbidden] by our faith. “All we want is that the world show some ‘ehtaram’ (respect) for our culture,” he told Al Jazeera on Monday, a day after the tournament’s opening match. Ali was referring to the uproar among some supporters over FIFA’s decision to prohibit alcohol at tournament venues last Friday. Liquor will continue to be accessible in certain hotels, pubs, and the official FIFA Fan Zone.
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Nonetheless, some supporters have criticized the decision by international football’s regulatory body for its timing. A few angry supporters were observed moaning about a lack of respect for their “drinking culture” in the lead-up to England’s first game of the tournament against Iran on Monday. Some were spotted asking mall security, much to the chagrin of the latter, for instructions to a location where they might obtain an alcoholic beverage. According to a few fans interviewed by Al Jazeera on Friday, FIFA mislead them.
It would have been different if FIFA had banned alcohol when Qatar was named as the host,” Federico Farraz, a football fan from Portugal, remarked while having a cup of tea at Doha’s Souq Waqif. “Even if the decision had been made a few months before the tournament, folks who had been preparing this trip for years would have understood.” Others, though, welcomed FIFA’s decision, which they said came after consultations with the host nation. Sonia Nemmas is a Jordanian mother of three girls who grew up in a football-crazed family. The family has tickets to a late-night game and is concerned about being in a stadium with potentially drunk folks.
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When we go to other nations, we don’t question why we have to obey their norms or respect their culture,” she shrugged. “We simply do it.” She was out in Doha’s downtown center on Friday evening, the weekend in Qatar, to take part in celebrations. Her daughters accompanied her, donning the keffiyeh as a tribute to their Jordanian heritage while also demonstrating their support for Qatar by carrying flags and caps from the host country. Nemmas was referring to the alcohol-fueled violence that erupted at Wembley Stadium in England last year during the Euro 2020 championship final. It is something she does not want to see in Qatar.
While some England supporters have expressed their displeasure with the prohibition on social media and in public, others have stated that it would not prevent them from having a good time. Ahmed Muhammad, an English schoolteacher living in Doha, believes it is unjust to paint all English supporters with the same brush. “England fans are typically seen as hooligans, although this is only a small percentage,” he stated while strolling around Souq Waqif with his little kid. The vast majority is courteous and follow the rules.
While there may be some disappointed English supporters, Muhammed believes that the majority will appreciate the decision and enjoy themselves. That shouldn’t be too difficult, according to Ali, a Qatari banker who watched the opening ceremony and the Qatar-Ecuador game on Sunday. After all, individuals who live in and watch football in Muslim nations do it without alcohol all the time, he pointed out. As a Muslim country, we want people to understand that you can enjoy the game without a beer in your hand,” he explained. “Football is not simply for folks who want to drink beer.
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