A day after Qatar and FIFA announced a shock ban on beer sales at the World Cup’s eight stadiums England star Eric Dier said that the soccer showpiece will still create “a great atmosphere” for fans.
“I’d like to think that you can enjoy yourself with or without alcohol, first and foremost – for me, that’s important,” the England defender said, during a press conference on Saturday. “It’s up for us on the pitch to bring the entertainment, I feel that in any football game I play.”
The World Cup kicks off on Sunday when host nation Qatar takes on Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium in the Qatari city of Al Khor. England begins its World Cup campaign against Iran on Monday at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar’s capital Doha.
World soccer’s governing body FIFA has estimated that over 1 million people will attend the World Cup’s 64 games. The World Cup final takes place on Dec. 18 at Lusail Stadium north of Doha.
Dier is taking part in his second World Cup. The Tottenham Hotspur player was part of the England team that reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“It’s up for us as a team, and every team in the tournament, for us to bring great football, great football matches, exciting football,” Dier said, during Saturday’s press conference. “That’s what’s going to create a great atmosphere in the stadiums.”
Qatar is the first country in the Arab world to host the World Cup. The Muslim nation had previously said beer sales within stadiums would be permitted. Budweiser is the official beer sponsor of the World Cup and the decision appeared to surprise the brand, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev BUD, +0.95%.
“Well, this is awkward …” Budweiser reportedly tweeted Friday, before deleting it.
The last-minute ban is the latest flashpoint in a World Cup buildup fraught with controversy. The plight of migrant workers in Qatar, along with LGBTQ+ rights in the Gulf state, has sparked a backlash before a ball has even been kicked.
During a separate press conference Saturday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino launched into a lengthy defense of the decision to host the World Cup in Qatar, and accused the West of “hypocrisy.”
“I think for what we Europeans have been doing the past 3,000 years, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people,” he said, referring to European nations’ history of colonization. A Swiss lawyer and longtime soccer administrator, Infantino was elected president of FIFA in 2016.
Branding experts have warned that the controversial Qatar World Cup poses challenges for the big-name corporations involved in the event.
FIFA’s list of partners includes U.S. corporate titans Coca-Cola Co. KO, +0.71% and Visa Inc. V, -0.09%, who will both be involved in the Qatar event. McDonald’s Corp. MCD, +0.00% is also signed up as a World Cup sponsor.
In May, Amnesty International, along with 23 other organizations, wrote an open letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino urging a “remedy for labor abuses behind the 2022 World Cup.”
The death toll of construction workers in Qatar remains firmly in the spotlight, with Amnesty International describing thousands of migrant worker deaths since 2010. The deaths cited by Qatar are significantly less and the country’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, which is overseeing the World Cup, described Amnesty’s letter as inaccurate.
“Over the past two decades, Qatar has initiated an overhaul of its labor system, with extensive action taken to benefit the millions of workers in our country,” said a Qatari government official, in a statement emailed to MarketWatch last week.
FIFA has set up grievance mechanisms with Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy. As of December 2021, workers are said to have received $22.6 million in repayment of recruitment fees, with an additional $5.7 million committed by contractors.