Qatar has been abuzz with events over the past few months: an international film festival, a nail-biting woman's tennis championship, and now, the Brazil-England friendly football match on November 14.
The game has drummed up a great deal of excitement and apprehension here, as residents wonder how conservative Qatar will handle the inevitable influx of rowdy football fans this weekend.
On the forum Qatar Living, family man HDY solicits advice on whether to buy tickets to the match:
Do you think that such matches are suitable for families? Shall I expect harassments? Overall, it is a matter of culture, and I hope that I will not regret this experience.
Secret1 tried to reassure him, but caused a stir with his comments:
I really think theres no problem here for families…. Its Qatar man not Europe…. Even though its gonna b a lot of Brits, here theyll have to behave….
Though the exact number of people flying in for the match is unknown, the England Supporters Club reported that 10,000 tickets were sold to British football fans within 48 hours of the box office opening.
Khalifa International Stadium, the main venue for the Doha 2006 Asian Games and where Saturday's match will be held, holds 50,000 people.
Qatar Visitor comments:
Qatar, though far more liberal and tolerant that neighbouring Saudi, practises the strictest form of Islam, Wahabbism. Many women still cover their faces from public view with black veils or masks, while Muslims who get drunk can be lashed and deported. Meanwhile, “bad smelling” and “badly dressed” Asian labourers are barred from places where they could spoil the view of families relaxing on the weekend. England football fans, on the other hand, are famous in Qatar for their drinking and fighting.
The match, added QV, will be a test for Qatar, which is bidding for the World Cup in 2022.
The Qatari police have little patience for yobbish behaviour in this well ordered country. But Qatar will also have a lot riding on this match. The country also has its eyes on a future world cup, and there is little doubt that relevant bodies will have their eyes on Qatar when it holds this friendly. How it handles belligerent fans could well have an effect on its success at holding larger sporting events in the future.
Some residents drew on past experiences to reassure others that the football match will be a family-friendly event.
On Qatar Living, commenter Muhammadshaikh said:
I have seen many Football matches in Qatar. I am 99.99% sure that there will be no problem. I have gone with my friends and my own kids. For me Qatar is among the few safest place on earth with/without family…Here there are more moral, social, ethical, and cultural values then anywhere in the world.
Indeed, such values are why British football fans should take care not to offend, warns one organization.
The Footballer Supporters’ Federation said:
The consequences of falling foul of the authorities in Qatar can be pretty drastic.
It added that public drunkenness, going bare-chested, rude gestures and overt PDAs could also lead to court
in the Gulf state.
In a separate thread on Qatar Living, forum members debated the best way to handle any potential bad behavior.
It's going to be really interesting to see how the hooligan brits are going to be dealt with. As has been said, treat them too harshly and bye bye world cup, or else treat them with kid gloves and piss off the entire muslim community. Watch this space.
Jervis was more optimistic after being impressed by Qatar's hands-off approach to the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF).
The DTFF surprised me. I expected a lot more censors. If they could relax the rules for the Film Festival, surely they would be more considerate towards a sport that the locals enjoy and follow. Given that they are bidding for the 2022, this would be a prelude. The press relase may be just a show to deter things getting out of hand.
idealman summed it up:
Undoubtedly most of the England fans coming over will respect Qatars laws, if they dont, then they will obviously pay the price. Thankfully most of todays England supporters are undoubtedly the best fans in the world, and not one country has a larger away following. But there are still some young muppets about that dont know respect. lets hope these plastic hard boys stay at home. I have no time for pissed up wannabes who can only fight in packs and terrorise the innocent. it will also be nice to watch the lads put a few past Brazil.
On another note, many Qatar bloggers expressed disappointment that English footballer David Beckham won't be playing in Saturday's match as his American Major League Soccer team Los Angeles Galaxy progresses to the MLS Western Conference final on Friday.
On Twitter, v3nomous, who flew to Doha for the match, said:
Damn.. Beckham is not playing this Saturday.. :( bummer..
IvanGiesbrecht was more concerned about Mrs. Beckham:
What about Posh? Any chance she'll still be able to make it?
And Sybil at Sybil & Kristi's Qatari Adventures said:
Not to worry, I plan on it being a lot of fun, nonetheless. It will be my first big league soccer game to attend and his absence will not deter me.