Qatar's fun factor a concern for 2022 World Cup

DOHA • Qatar will begin sifting through fan feedback from the Club World Cup, the first test event for the World Cup it will host in 2022.

The Gulf country fully intends to make football’s showpiece tournament a success, but cultural differences will be a tricky challenge.

Early feedback has revealed a mixture of reassurance about their infrastructure as well as concerns about the fun factor.

Drinking and partying can be a tricky concept in a country with strict restrictions on alcohol consumption and a low tolerance for rowdiness.

“It’s much more about people than bricks and mortar now,” Hassan Al Thawadi, head of Qatar’s World Cup organising committee, said in an interview.

“We are looking at the fans here at this event as partners, to educate and teach us whether our plans worked or not, what we can improve, what doesn’t work and what we need to scrap all together.”

The tournament, which Liverpool won after beating Brazil’s Flamengo, attracted around 13,000 Brazilian fans as well as thousands of Liverpool supporters. Mexican, Saudi and Tunisian fans were also in attendance to support their teams.

“All the facilities look top-notch. The stadiums are all state of the art,” said Liverpool fan Adnan Vola, who travelled from Britain.

But Tunisian fan Ahmed Ali, decked out in the red-and-yellow shirt of his team Esperance, said the Qataris will need to shift their approach to satisfy fans from around the world who are used to gathering in large numbers to drink and sing before matches.

“I think they have to be a little bit more open. You are going to have teams coming from England, Germany, France, South America – guess what? They have to be a little bit open,” he said.

In Qatar, alcohol sales are limited to a handful of hotels allowed to operate bars. For the Cup, organisers created a fan zone at a golf club, where fans could buy beer at friendlier prices. They were then bussed to the stadium, where alcohol was not for sale, thus reducing the risk of alcohol-fuelled incidents at the arena and the city’s public places.

It is expected that more fan zones will be created for the World Cup, with concerts and other entertainment to attract supporters.

But the possibility of allowing beer at the stadium itself is not completely off the agenda.

“That is being discussed, keeping in mind that alcohol is not part of our culture but hospitality is,” said Al Thawadi.

“We want to ensure that everyone has a good time, we want to make sure that what we put in place, bridges the cultural gaps and cultural differences.

“I want to hear from the fans about their experiences in Doha. We are here to listen and to improve.”

REUTERS

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