Qatar: FIFA’s alcohol ban helps female fans enjoy hassle-free football, report

Amid criticism of FIFA’s ban of alcohol in stadiums during the World Cup matches, many female fans have found the stadiums more welcoming than at home, according to The Times.

Ellie Molloson, who campaigns to improve matchday experiences for women football supporters, was so concerned about visiting Qatar her father is acting as her chaperone.

“He need not have bothered. Molloson and many other female England fans say this World Cup could create a model for the game at home,” stated The Times report.

“I’ve got to say coming here has been a real shock to my system,” said Molloson, 19, who runs the HerGameToo campaign. “There have been no catcalls, wolf whistles or sexism of any kind.”

This shows how the widespread Western criticism of Qatar’s rules related to organization of the World Cup was groundless, as “… many female fans have found the stadiums more welcoming than at home”.

Although FIFA’s decision  banning alcohol sparked criticism from some visitors of Qatar, however many Qatar-based fans, including families, have backed the move.

Asking visitors to consider Qatar as their second home, Abdulla Murad Ali, a Qatari banker, only wanted football fans to respect his nation’s culture.

“Qatar is an Islamic country, and alcohol is ‘haram’ (forbidden) in our religion. All we ask is for the world to show some ‘respect’ for our culture,” Mr. Ali told Al Jazeera.

Ali was referring to the furore among some fans about FIFA’s decision to ban alcohol at tournament venues. Liquor will still be available at selected hotels, bars and the official FIFA Fan Zone.

Nevertheless, the decision by international football’s governing authority has been criticized by some fans for its timing. In the lead-up to England’s first game of the tournament against Iran on Monday, a few disgruntled fans were seen complaining about a lack of understanding for their “drinking culture”.

For many fans, the decision, which FIFA said followed discussions with the host nation, came as a relief.

Sonia Nemmas is a Jordanian mother of three girls raised in a football-mad household. The family has tickets to a late-night match and is apprehensive about being at a stadium where drunk fans could potentially be in attendance.

“When we go to other countries, we don’t ask them why we are being asked to follow their rules or respect their culture,” she said with a shrug. “We just do it.” On Friday evening, the weekend in Qatar, she was out in Doha’s downtown area to participate in festivities.

Her daughters were with her, wearing the keffiyeh in a nod to their Jordanian identity, while showing their support for Qatar by carrying the host country’s flags and hats.

Nemmas referred to the alcohol-fuelled violence that broke out at Wembley Stadium during the final of the Euro 2020 championship in England last year. It is not something she wants to see in Qatar.

While some England fans have voiced their unhappiness with the ban on social media and in public, others said it wouldn’t stop them from having a good time.

Ahmed Muhammad, a Doha-based school teacher from England, said it was unfair to paint all English fans with the same brush. “England fans are generally shown to be hooligans but that is just a small minority,” he said while soaking in the atmosphere at Souq Waqif with his young son. “The majority are respectful and do follow the rules.”

Muhammed said that while there will be some unhappy English fans, most would respect the decision and enjoy themselves.

That should not be hard at all, suggested Ali, the Qatari banker, who attended the opening ceremony and Qatar-Ecuador game. After all, he pointed out, people who live in and follow football in Muslim countries do it without alcohol all the time.

“Being a Muslim country, this what we want people to understand — that you can enjoy the game without a beer in hand,” he said. “Football is for everyone, not just for people who want to drink alcohol.”