FIFA bows to local pressure and bans beer from World Cup stadiums in Qatar
The World Cup comes to the Arabian Gulf, where public opinion is as important as football
Qatar hosts the 2022 World Cup, but FIFA’s decision to ban beer from the stadiums where it will take place was an embarrassment for the tournament’s sponsor. While the decision was made before the latest World Cup draw, FIFA has refused to reveal how many countries have been fined for missing out on a place on the tournament. In the absence of such figures, the issue must be seen as a major blow against the World Cup’s popularity in Qatar, where the tournament has been a massive commercial success for Gulf state-run tournament organisers 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. But while Qatar’s reputation as a success story in hosting the tournament may be undeserved, it still has a good claim to be the most progressive of the Gulf states. It has established the world’s first football-specific development fund, funded a scholarship system that empowers women in the Gulf and launched a major public campaign for gender equality. Qatar may not have the football legacy of the United States or South Korea – where the tournament has been a huge commercial success – but it is a leader when it comes to being open about its commitment to gender equality.
Qatar’s success is largely attributed to a combination of its sports-friendly policies and a strong leadership from Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who became president of the Gulf Co-operation Council in 1988 and served as the head of state in Qatar until 2004. Sheikh Hamad is not only a champion of women’s rights abroad, but also a supporter and promoter of women’s football, a key part of any country’s sporting identity. When she visited Sweden from January 15-23, 2017, to mark International Women’s Day, the country’s president, Stefan Löfven, said: “In sports, there should be no barriers because you simply cannot have exclusion, such as in education or healthcare … It is difficult for a family to grow up in a country where one of the parents does not play a sport. That is why Qatar is pioneering the game in its country, and why my wife [Ansar] supports my wish to grow it.”
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