Football

By Suresh Nair

ONE of the special beauties of World Cup football is to enjoy some liquor as you watch the big matches. Holding a beer gives you a “high” and allows you to probably make a lot more noise!

After all, the biggest alcohol companies have been sponsors of the major tournaments for time imemorial. But for the first time, in the desert heartlands of Qatar, there will be a lot of disappointed looks as they’ve shown the red card to the drinking culture.

This even shocked former award-winning Singapore coach Jita Singh, who’s in Qatar with his family: “Yes, I’m taken unawares too as this has never happened before. I hope FIFA’s decision to ban the sale of alcoholic beer will not dampen the atmosphere at the games.”

Strangely, for years, Qatar’s tournament organisers have said that alcohol would be widely accessible to fans at the tournament. But not every fan remained convinced as hosting in a conservative Muslim country with strict controls on alcohol has its abrupt limitation.

ONLY SOLD IN FAN ZONES

Now nowhere around any of the eight World Cup stadiums will liquor be available. FIFA gave no reason for the stunning U-turn on the matter but media reports said there had been an intervention by Qatar’s ruling family.

A Fifa statement said alcohol would be sold only in fan zones, “removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s Fifa World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters”.

Asked if the decision will affect the spirits of the fans, Jita said: “I hope not. Obviously we all love a good atmosphere, so hopefully it won’t seriously distract them in any way.”

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Yes, plenty of questions will be on the lips of fans on the absolute absence of alcohol, with more than a million fans expected, since Qatar won hosting rights in 2010.

Tighter rules insist that visitors cannot bring alcohol into Qatar, even from the airport’s duty free section, and most cannot buy alcohol at the country’s only liquor store. Alcohol is sold in bars at some hotels, where beer costs around US$15 (S$20.60) per half-litre.

Jita, who relishes an occasional beer, believes in some compromise. He said: “We’re here to enjoy the best football matches and a bit of liquor sacrifice will not jeopardise the overall fun. Let’s give and take, lah.”

The writer is an award-winning sports journalist who is also a qualified international coach and international referee instructor

More stories related to FIFA World Cup here.

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