Here are things World Cup fans can’t do in Qatar

The World Cup is a sporting event and an international celebration at the same time – and alcohol plays a major role for many fans. This applies to stadiums and bars that open early or stay open late to show games.

But the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is unlike any before it. Just two days before the tournament’s first game in the Muslim nation, officials made the surprise announcement that fans would not be allowed to drink beer in the country’s eight World Cup stadiums – a reversal of a previously announced policy.

Alcohol is tightly regulated in Qatar, where customs officers are under orders to confiscate any alcohol visitors attempt to bring into the country.

It’s one of many cultural clashes and potential legal issues fans may encounter in Qatar, especially if arriving from more open societies. Here’s a quick guide:

This World Cup will be drier

In a sign of how dramatic the shift is in Qatar, consider that FIFA successfully pressured Brazil to change its federal laws to allow the sale of alcohol in its stadiums before it hosted the 2014 World Cup – and one Ban imposed due to violence in Qatar stadiums lifted.

“Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we will have them,” said then-FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke in 2012. “Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant, but we will not negotiate that.”

Fans and beers have been a common sight at previous World Cup tournaments, as in this 2014 scene from Brasilia, Brazil.  But in Qatar, officials canceled a plan to allow regular spectators to drink beer on stadium grounds.

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Fans and beers have been a common sight at previous World Cup tournaments, as in this 2014 scene from Brasilia, Brazil. But in Qatar, officials canceled a plan to allow regular spectators to drink beer on stadium grounds.

But that was then. In Qatar, ordinary fans do not have access to alcohol at matches. Only spectators in the stadiums’ high-end luxury suites have easy access to alcohol. Outside the stadiums, fans can still drink at dedicated World Cup venues or at specially licensed restaurants, bars and hotels across the country.

In general, drinking alcohol in public is illegal in Qatar — a crime that carries up to six months in prison and a fine of more than $800, according to the Library of Congress. Authorities said anyone who smuggled alcohol into the country could face up to three years in prison.

Fans face religious restrictions

Islam is Qatar’s official religion – and anyone found to be proselytizing other religions or criticizing Islam “may be prosecuted,” the foreign ministry said in a factsheet on Qatar for World Cup visitors.

It is also not safe to assume that you can practice your faith openly: “Qatar allows some non-Muslim religious practices in designated areas such as the Doha Religious Complex, but not all faiths are treated equally,” the US agency said.

In addition to import restrictions on alcohol and pornography, “travellers cannot bring pork products into the country,” the foreign ministry said in a video about Qatar’s laws.

Public speaking is also restricted

Statements considered critical of the Qatari government could trigger an arrest. These laws apply to both spoken word and social media.

And while past World Cups have brought plenty of argy-bargy – scenes of rival crowds yelling at each other or even chanting obscenities – open conflict in Qatar can cause major problems.

“For example, arguing or insulting others in public could result in an arrest,” the State Department advisory video said.

sex and other social issues

“Homosexuality is criminalized in Qatar,” the Foreign Ministry notes.

“Proponents say LGBTQ people in Qatar face conversion therapy, harassment from authorities and imprisonment,” said NPR’s Becky Sullivan in her overview of controversies surrounding the host country.

Such reports have fueled outrage, and authorities are under scrutiny over how they deal with LGBTQ fans and icons.

Visitors to Qatar can also face harsh penalties for “indecent acts and the act of sexual intercourse outside of marriage,” the Library of Congress noted, citing Qatari law.

The allegations range from a fine or six months in prison for anyone who committed “immoral” acts or gestures in public, to up to seven years in prison for someone having sex outside of marriage. Public debauchery is also punishable by up to three years in prison, according to the Library of Congress.

If a pregnant fan travels to Qatar for the World Cup, they should be ready to present a marriage certificate if they need antenatal care there, the foreign ministry said.

Republic of Ireland fans pose before a FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying match in Cardiff, Wales.  When fans travel to Qatar they must keep their stomachs, chests and shoulders covered.

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Republic of Ireland fans pose before a FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying match in Cardiff, Wales. When fans travel to Qatar they must keep their stomachs, chests and shoulders covered.

Fans have to cover up despite the heat

Qatar’s stifling heat has forced the tournament to be pushed back from summer to November and December – but fans who find it hot there should limit how much skin they show.

Dress codes in many public areas require that “both men and women cover their shoulders, chest, stomach and knees, and that tight leggings be covered by a long shirt or dress,” the State Department said.

As with alcohol, dress standards often change depending on the extent to which a neighborhood or venue caters to foreigners.

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