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Qatar 2022: Beer ban, jail threats and everything you never expected at a FIFA World Cup

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulNov 18, 2022 | 17:37

Qatar 2022: Beer ban, jail threats and everything you never expected at a FIFA World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar kicks off this Sunday, November 20, at the Al Bayt Stadium when the hosts take on Ecuador. But before the football madness enraptures the world once more, we take a brief look at the circumstances that make Qatar the most uncalled for hosts in World Cup history.

When the ex-FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, announced Qatar - a country that had a cumulative single football stadium to boast at the time - as the winner of the World Cup bid and the hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the years since have been marked with concerns and controversy.

Following years of investigations into alleged foul-play and bribery to secure its spot as host nation, Qatar has managed to clear its name (for the most part) and FIFA has subsequently attempted to shove the issue under the rug. 

Heat on, heat in Qatar: The small Gulf country has defied all expectations in its preparation and conduct, the foremost at the time being the torrid summer heat in the nation. What first started as ambitious promises of floating solar clouds to shade the stadiums, to fully air-conditioned pitches, eventually devolved into the World Cup being pushed to the cooler months of November and December. 

This shift in schedule has completely disrupted some of the most important football leagues in the world, as players were plunged into the ‘international break’ last week, with only eight days' notice to prepare themselves for the most widely watched sporting event in the world. 

Somehow, instead of taking the World Cup away from the clutches of the emirates state, the logical step forward was to take the World Cup away from its traditional summer schedule instead.

So conservative: If one were to overlook the inconvenience in scheduling for a moment, a far more morbid reality would assume centrestage: Qatar’s infamously conservative society and homophobic rules and regulations in place.

Male homosexuality is illegal in Qatar with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death penalty by practices such as flogging (although no known cases of death for homosexuality have been reported yet). The country’s government doesn’t allow same-sex marriages or even campaigning for LGBTQIA+ rights. 

“They have to accept our rules here. [Homosexuality] is haram [forbidden]. You know what haram means? I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.”
- Former Qatari international footballer and World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman

The fact that the biggest sporting event in the world could be held in a country with such an unabashed disdain for same-sex relations is one that has not only drawn global scrutiny for years on end, but on a very fundamental level, seems outrightly absurd to have even been considered in the first place.

A $220 billion project in exchange for 6,500 human lives: What’s more is that the $220 billion project which involved the rushed construction of state-of-the-art stadiums, came at an immense human cost.

Like most Gulf countries, Qatar extended open arms to migrant workers from the Indian subcontinent - including India, Nepal and Bangladesh - under the convenient guise of providing these foreign labourers with work opportunities. The reality was different. Underpaid, overworked migrants were falling prey to the closest it could get to modern-day slavery.

The beer conundrum: There seems to be no end to the host nation’s broken promises as most recently, having backtracked on pre-tournament commitments, the organising committee at Qatar priced beer at £12 (Rs 1,165) for a glass. 

With negotiations on the price of beer dating as far back as 2019, the Qatari officials had assured that alcohol would be made "accessible" to fans and that Qatar would consider offering alcohol at lower prices.

Now, having appointed Budweiser as sole custodian over the sale and distribution of alcohol at the World Cup...

...the latest updates confirm that Qatari officials have banned the sale of beer and any other alcohol at the eight stadium venues for the World Cup. 

Not only does the decision eviscerate the $75-miilion sponsorship agreement with Budweiser, but also puts an end to a beer-chugging tradition that has been an indelible part of World Cup culture (especially for the English fans). For the first time in history, the world will bear witness to a sober FIFA World Cup.

The women worry: Concerns over the safety of female fans are also pretty high, considering that Qatar has specifically asked them to either cover up or go to jail. Again, for the first time in World Cup history perhaps.

A billion-pound 'floating' debauchery den: While queer folk from all over the world will spend their World Cup stay in perpetual fear for their lives, an increasing number of migrant workers are being exploited and losing their lives in the process, and fans are being extorted out of with hideously exorbitant prices (and now forcefully burdened with sobreity); the latest updates speak of a £1 billion super-luxury floating palace that would ostensibly serve as a safe haven for the partners of the English team, to commit debauchery of all sorts, offshore and away from paparazzi and the authorities.

Despite the host nation being rife with matters of grave contention, the World Cup is expected to rake in a revenue that far exceeds the roughly $5.4 billion that its Russian predecessor pooled in at the end of the tournament. 

At the end of a seemingly never-ending list of red flags, hypocrisies and controversies; the morality behind this year’s World Cup is surely put into perspective to say the least.

“The work that has been done is exemplary. Of course, not everything is perfect. Of course, it’s not paradise—no country is paradise.”
- FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the World Cup draw
Last updated: November 18, 2022 | 17:37
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