DOHA, Qatar — Faced with the daunting prospect of enduring an alcohol-free World Cup after Qatari officials banned the sale of beer in and around stadiums, Matthew Wyatt did what any England fan would do in a similar emergency. He executed his backup plan.
Her friend Mel Kenny explained: “She was under pressure to find a suitable place.
One option was to consult the Qatar Alcohol Map, a list of drinking spots drawn up by a concerned American that has been spreading like samizdat as fans flock to the small, largely alcohol-free country. But Wyatt and Kenny instead made their way to the Red Lion, a pub tucked discreetly inside a hotel in Doha, and which, according to the Daily Star back home, catered to beer-hungry England fans. offered an exciting oasis in the desert. It was already filled with fans.
Of course, fans of many countries enjoy beer with their football. Americans and Argentinians, Germans and Mexicans and (mostly) everywhere. But something remains about the English.
One fan, Simon, 36, who declined to give his last name, said: “I’ve never seen a more sober English football fan in my life.” Regarding alcohol and England games, he said: “I believe the word is ‘necessary’. Or ‘compulsory’. Or some other synonym.”
Or as Brad Hirs, who came from Burnley, a suburb of Manchester, put it: “If you can’t drink, what’s the point?”
“Oasis” was one way to describe Red Lion. On Monday, it seemed like a green zone for England fans as they tried to drink as much alcohol as physically possible before heading to the Khalifa International Stadium, where their team were to play Iran. (They then cheered their team as they won 6-2.)
The fans all had their own individual approaches.
“We’re rehydrating,” Wyatt said, pointing to the many empty beer bottles and full water bottles at their booth. Just like the instructions that the British Embassy sent us.”
A few tables away, Gary Douglas, 52, measured time with pint glasses. “We got here six beers ago,” he said. Douglas and friend Neil Tattersall, 43, were checking their second round, six more pints – three in a row – in a row. (“I’m too lazy to stand in line every time,” Tattersall said of the bulk purchase.) They figured they’d have an extra hour, give or take.
Fans had a different view of the no-beer rule in the World Cup. Many said they felt it was important to respect Qatar’s culture and that they didn’t mind serving alcohol during actual game time, as it is a common rule in Premier League stadiums and elsewhere in Europe.
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But the sudden order had blindsided them and disrupted their long-term planning of pre-match drinking. And they resented being denied the chance to drink and socialize near the stadium as the game approached, a ritual that regularly brought together even fans of different teams, usually mortal enemies, before home and away matches.
The new regulations in Qatar meant they had to stick more booze in a shorter amount of time, followed by a very long beer-free period. (Except for water. Or Budweiser Zero, whose name speaks for itself.)
Hirst, 32, admitted: “We drink five bottles instead of walking ourselves, which is not a good idea.
Qatar has strict alcohol laws and allows World Cup fans to drink at certain times and in certain places. But visitors are still not allowed to smuggle bottles of alcohol into hotels to drink secretly before emptying themselves onto the street. Also, you and your mates can’t march around town en masse and pour beer, chant incoherently, or drunkenly insult people from other countries.
It is hard for English fans to give up these activities, which are part of their football culture, even if the worst days of football hooliganism are in the past.
“To deny an Englishman beer is to starve an Englishman,” said Kenny, who noted (several times) that he turned 50 that day.
Wyatt and Kenny, who met years ago as students at the University of Manchester, have played in five World Cups together, starting with Japan and South Korea in 2002. (They missed Russia in 2018.) Some of their fondest memories from the tournament revolve around them. A drink, they said. In Japan, brewer Sapporo held an epic event where fans could drink as much beer and eat grilled beef for a limited time. Wyatt and Kenny thought it might be 150 minutes. They couldn’t remember exactly.
At another stop on that trip, Kenny drank so much he almost didn’t make it out of the train station for the England v Sweden game. “I told him, ‘You go on without me,'” he recalled.
But Wyatt refused to leave him behind. “He gave me something, like a chocolate bar, and it revived me,” Kenny said. Both remembered that the game was a draw.
At that time, the start of the game was approaching and the fans were in a frenzy at the Red Lion. Some of them chose the standard English slogan and just repeated “England” but it sounded like “Ing er Land”. Paul Farrell, dressed as St George, the patron saint of England – his costume included a linen, chain hat and custom-made shield – said he wasn’t drunk per se, just “care about his life”. “
As he left, he began to sing a raucous chorus of “They Won’t Be Drinking in Qatar” to the tune of “He’s Coming Around the Mountain.”
The English fans then left the bar to head towards the stadium, only to be replaced by a new batch: the Welsh fans in dragons and the Dutch, all orange.
Thomas Bowen, 27, from Wales, said: “We always drink before a game, but we don’t go out to get hammered.”
He said that while he respects the English approach, his countrymen have their own traditions. “They get quite busy,” he said. We just like to sing.