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DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 29: England fans show their support during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and England at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 29, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
The World Cup of contradictions

The World Cup of contradictions

DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 29: England fans show their support during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and England at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 29, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

In many ways, this is a World Cup unlike any other. In others, it’s just like the rest. Andrew Butler examines the contradictory nature of Qatar 2022

It’s a World Cup we’re not “supposed” to be watching, yet England vs. Wales drew an audience of 18.7 million on Tuesday evening. For the few thousand fans who made the trip to Qatar, the World Cup of contradictions is equally evident.

“All in all it’s been great, and we keep laughing about being sportswashed,” says one England fan who has made the trip.

“I’m a bit ambivalent with the whole thing but it’s a World Cup. I can’t really take the moral high ground too much after Russia,” says another, who has followed England to both this year’s tournament in Qatar and the previous one in Russia.

For a supposedly “dry” World Cup, England fans have been enjoying enough lager in hotel bars to get them through the long, hot days. The only thing putting them off isn’t so much the heavy-handed threat of security and police, but rather the £8-11 per pint price tag (“I’m probably going less heavy and frequent than other tournaments, but maybe that’s not a bad thing?” says one).

The general mood from seasoned watchers is that there is less fanfare and this tournament feels “emptier” than previous ones – but the fan parks are packed and everyone appears to be having a good time.

Away from the stadiums, the contradictions continue. Migrant workers experience the fruits of their labour by watching games on a big screen on a cricket pitch on the outskirts of Doha. Meanwhile, an estimated $800 million spent on luxury hospitality packages has smashed all records from previous tournaments. Last Wednesday, Germany’s team put their hands over their mouth before their match against Japan to signal being “silenced” by Fifa over the OneLove armband row. This Tuesday, German firms signed a 15-year deal to buy two million tonnes of liquid gas from Qatar, as it weans itself off Russian supplies.

Effective boycotts from football federations and advertisers haven’t been forthcoming, so when the game is on, why should fans be the ones to suffer by not enjoying the actual sport they are so dedicated to?

It shouldn’t be up to the fans to perform these mental gymnastics. “The whole thing feels a bit dystopian, but I’m enjoying it over all,” sums up one England fan at this World Cup of contradictions.

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