More than one million fans are expected to flock to the Gulf state for the World Cup between November and December.
Qatar expects 2022 FIFA World Cup fans to “behave” during the major sporting event amid concerns over previous behaviour at other such tournaments.
“I think it’s the first big event that brings happiness to people and we are really keen to see that happening and we hope that everyone comes to Doha to see our country, to enjoy our hospitality, and also to behave,” Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told Channel News Asia (CNA).
Published on Wednesday, the interview was pre-recorded during his tour in Asia last month, in which he stopped over in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea.
Sheikh Mohammed’s remarks were in response to a question on how the Gulf state is planning on handling World Cup hooligans, to which he noted each tournament has its positives and negatives.
“What we are focusing on really is how to make the best fan experience…Qatar is a peaceful country so I believe even those people who are getting over excited when they see this peaceful environment they will act peacefully,” said Sheikh Mohammed.
The Qatari official added that the Gulf state’s security measures, including cooperation with its international partners, will contain such behaviour.
“I think that our security protocol that is being put in place has been very strict to ensure the safety and security for everyone who is in Doha,” he said.
Some of the countries assisting Qatar with World Cup security include Turkey, France, Jordan, Morocco, the UK, the US, and South Korea.
Concerns over misconduct was raised after last year’s scenes of vandalism by English fans following Italy’s victory at the Euro 2020 final. Angry English fans were seen breaking glass bottles and throwing trash across London.
While this may not be unusual for English fans, many in Qatar and the wider Gulf region questioned whether such scenes would be seen at the World Cup in Doha, and if so, how authorities would respond.
In a bid to contain such scenes, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy has designated a number of strategic locations around the country as “fan zones” for those wishing to celebrate, enjoy the football and also drink alcohol.
Fan zones will work as extensions of the stadiums and will involve entertainment programmes to “enhance the experience of both visiting and local fans.”
Alcohol in Qatar
Fan access to alcohol has also been a sticking point for incoming visitors, especially with Qatar being the first Muslim nation to host the tournament. Public drunkenness, or “a drunk and disorderly” offence, is not allowed in Qatar.
Responding to a question on the matter, Sheikh Mohammed said there are designated areas in the country.
“We would like them [fans] to come and to enjoy the football and enjoy our culture and experience. In the stadiums, alcohol will not be allowed,” he said.
More than one million fans are expected to flock to the Gulf state for the World Cup between November and December, with some visiting the Middle East for the first time. Tickets for flights, accommodation and hotel rooms have already started booking up across the Gulf region.
Responding to a question over who Sheikh Mohammed thinks will win the World Cup, the Qatari official said,“Well, whom I think I can’t predict, whom I wish, I wish Qatar.”