The World Cup in Qatar is only days old, but the outcry over a lack of alcohol has really exposed a wider issue.
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino was rightly criticised for his bizarre speech before the tournament started, trying to compare his upbringing to people facing discrimination because of their sexuality or disability.
But – and I know agreeing with the FIFA president isn’t a popular thing to do – he was right when he said fans can handle a few hours without beer inside stadiums.
“We tried until the end to see whether it was possible,” Infantino said about allowing alcohol sales. “If for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive.
“Maybe there is a reason why in France, in Spain, in Scotland, alcohol is banned in stadiums. “Maybe they are more intelligent than us, having thought maybe we should be doing that.”
“There are many countries that ban alcohol in stadiums, like France, but since (Qatar’s) a Muslim country that’s a problem.”
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The way Qatar has handled the beer issue hasn’t been great.
Originally beer was going to be sold inside the stadiums before and after kick-off, but 48 hours before the World Cup started, the host nation backflipped and banned it outright.
Fans can still drink beer at the fan festival in Doha, but it’s only served after 6.30pm and that venue has been plagued with overcrowding issues in the opening days of the World Cup.
But you can understand why Qatar is concerned about alcohol at the World Cup.
This is a strict Muslim country where drinking just isn’t part of its culture. Why should it have to bow down and let it be a free-for-all for one month?
But the bigger issue this beer debate has exposed, is the lack of understanding some people have for different cultures.
When you travel overseas you are always asked to respect the local customs.
And Australians, by and large, respect that (maybe barring a few bogans in Bali or Thailand).
Yet now people are outraged that a country hasn’t completely changed its attitude to alcohol just to appease travelling fans.
But alcohol isn’t banned in Qatar, you’re just not allowed to drink in public or be drunk in public.
And anyone who has been to a World Cup before will know that these are two things you’d see every day at past tournaments.
At the 2006 World Cup in Germany I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered you could buy beer at every convenience store.
But now being in Qatar, I can handle not having a beer during the game and respecting the local customs.
Ironically most of the outrage seems to be coming from people who aren’t in Qatar.
Because getting a beer in Doha isn’t impossible, or even a hard task. Sure, it’s going to cost you, but go to any luxury hotel in the Middle East and see how much a beer sets you back.
And limiting alcohol sales at sporting events is hardly something unique to Qatar.
As Infantino says, alcohol is banned at French football grounds.
Go to a Premier League game in the UK, and you can have a beer before kick-off or halftime, but you can’t drink it in view of the game.
Even in Australia you’d struggle to find any big venues that sell full-strength alcohol any more.
There are far more important issues that should be highlighted about this World Cup – the shocking number of foreign workers who died building the stadiums, and the rights of LGBTQ people travelling to the tournament.
But having to drink a zero alcohol Budweiser while watching your team, or just waiting until you’re at a hotel later on for a real beer, isn’t one of them.
Story Credit: news.com.au