Fans stay away from Qatar World Cup that doesn’t make them dream

BERLIN (Reuters) – The World Cup in Qatar has always been unique in a number of ways, but one aspect that FIFA would not have welcomed is that fans around the world are choosing not to attend a tournament that a supporter group is calling for said it didn’t “make fans dream”.

There are many factors at play that individually might have been only a minor deterrent, but collectively have resulted in fans who follow their teams routinely and at tremendous cost choosing to miss out on this one.

The shift from the usual summer holidays in June/July to winter in the northern hemisphere, which ends just a week before Christmas due to the high temperatures in the desert state, had a significant impact.

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Strict entry requirements, sky-high accommodation prices, and concerns about human rights and Qatar’s LGBTQ+ balance sheet have also dampened enthusiasm for November 20-December. 18 tournament.

Alcohol restrictions and high drink prices, the fact that many hotels in Doha don’t show games due to licensing costs, and a lack of alternative entertainment in a city that’s never really catered to tourists have also convinced fans to have a good time at home watch.

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It’s not just the world-weary “old hands” who stay away.

Wales are playing in a World Cup for the first time since 1958 but Paul Corkrey of the Football Supporters’ Association Cymru said: “We took 50,000 to Euro 2016 in France so the response was muted mainly because of the place and the time of year played,”

“I would expect 3,000 fans to actually travel from Wales, although there will also be expats from the region.”

Qatar, where foreigners make up the majority of its 2.9 million residents, has come under severe scrutiny over its treatment of migrant workers.

HUMAN RIGHTS

“Qatar just doesn’t have the best human rights efforts for things that I feel are important,” Matthew Molden, secretary of the Fort Worth, Texas chapter of US soccer fans group American Outlaws, told Reuters.

“I don’t know if I want to support that,” added Molden, who is not traveling to the tournament.

Many fans were surprised by the choice of energetic Qatar as hosts, despite a lack of footballing tradition and a climate that forced a sea change in the sporting calendar with the domestic leagues suspended.

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“There are people who won’t leave because Qatar isn’t a footballing country,” said Anne Costes, vice-president of Irresistibles Francais, France’s largest supporters’ group.

“Doha doesn’t necessarily make you want to go there. It doesn’t attract. It doesn’t make the fans dream.”

Despite all concerns, Qatar is expecting an unprecedented 1.2 million visitors during the tournament, representing more than a third of the approximately 3 million inhabitants of the Arabian Gulf state.

Due to limited accommodation and entertainment options, many overseas fans have chosen to stay in nearby Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, flying in and out of Doha on matchday.

That’s the approach of Germany’s official fan group, which has reserved 300 seats in a four-star hotel in Dubai.

They declined to say how many were traveling with them, but even including all “unaffiliated fans” the figures appear to have been dwarfed by the estimated 62,000 Germans who bought tickets in Russia for 2018.

Package prices for attending all three group games range from €2,609 to €3,849 and because of the high cost, some fans are subsidized by their countries.

“We have drawn up a list of 300 players who are fully backed by the State of Senegal to support the national team,” said the country’s Sports Minister Yankhoba Diatara.

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Other fans are concerned about the entertainment options.

“There isn’t much to do in Doha,” Ashley Brown of the English Football Supporters’ Association told Reuters.

“It’s not like visiting a huge city like Moscow or London. There isn’t a multitude of theatres, restaurants, bars, cafes.”

“Overall I think it probably won’t be as good an experience as the fans are used to.”

Argentina fans may have concerns, but for many they will be outweighed by the prospect of seeing Lionel Messi’s final leap in winning the sport’s ultimate prize.

“I know a lot of people who gave up attending mainly because of the cost of accommodation,” Karina Medina, a member of the Hinchas Argentinos support group, told Reuters. “But a lot of people will leave no matter what – because of Messi.”

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Additional reporting by Amy Tennery, Pete Hall, Andrew Mills, Julien Pretot, Ramiro Escandalo, Janina Nuno Rios, Mark Gleeson, Manasi Pathak, Mitch Phillips, Editing by Ed Osmond

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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