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To Get the Best Perks on the World Cup, You Should Be a V.V.I.P.


The group stage is wrapping up. Listed here are the World Cup standings.

AL KHOR, Qatar — With its haughty aura of exclusivity, the red-carpeted, velvet-roped V.I.P. entrance at Al Bayt Stadium seems designed to encourage maximal awe and envy. As regular fans were herded through their gates on the England-United States game on Friday, the V.I.P. guests were welcomed by an exotic figure dressed as some type of antelope, covered head to toe in shimmering golden squares.

(When pressed on its identity, the figure, who was not presupposed to speak, muttered under its breath: “Oryx.”)

But that is the Qatar World Cup, where there’s something even higher than the V.I.P. entrance: the V.V.I.P. entrance.

Not that it is on the market, and even fully visible, to you. Flanked by barriers and cut off from the conventional road system, Al Bayt’s V.V.I.P. entrance is a sweeping thoroughfare on which a very powerful fans, starting with Qatar’s emir, who arrives by helicopter together with his entourage after which hops right into a Mercedes, are chauffeured directly into their special enclave within the stadium. That way, they’re never required to interact with, and even occupy the identical general space as, regular fans.

Every sports venue has its tiered system of luxury — the owner’s box, the business lounges, the special-access elevators, the ridiculously expensive seats, the much more ridiculously expensive seats. But at this 12 months’s World Cup, the convergence of two entities awash in luxury and entitlement — Qatar, where all power and privilege flow from the emir, and FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, with its vast wealth and patronage network — provides a bracing reminder that there may be all the time a more rarefied degree of exclusive.

The essential difference between the luxurious and non-luxury seats at this 12 months’s World Cup is alcohol. In a shock to fans (and to Budweiser, the official beer of the tournament since 1986), Qatar reversed itself and decreed just before the event began that the sale of alcoholic beer (indeed, alcohol of any kind) can be banned in and across the stadiums.

A Temporary Guide to the 2022 World Cup

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What’s the World Cup? The quadrennial event pits the perfect national soccer teams against one another for the title of world champion. Here’s a primer to the 2022 men’s tournament:

Where is it being held? This 12 months’s host is Qatar, which in 2010 beat america and Japan to win the fitting to carry the tournament. Whether that was an honest competition stays in dispute.

When is it? The tournament opened on Nov. 20, when Qatar played Ecuador. Over the 2 weeks that follow, 4 games will likely be played on most days. The tournament ends with the ultimate on Dec. 18.

Is a winter World Cup normal? No. The World Cup normally takes place in July. But in 2015, FIFA concluded that the summer temperatures in Qatar might need unpleasant consequences and agreed to maneuver the tournament to the relatively bearable months of November and December.

What number of teams are competing? Thirty-two. Qatar qualified robotically because the host, and after years of matches, the opposite 31 teams earned the fitting to return and play. Meet the teams here.

How does the tournament work? The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of 4. Within the opening stage, each team plays all the opposite teams in its group once. The highest two finishers in each group advance to the round of 16. After that, the World Cup is a straight knockout tournament.

How can I watch the World Cup within the U.S.? The tournament will likely be broadcast on Fox and FS1 in English, and on Telemundo in Spanish. You possibly can livestream it on Peacock, or on streaming services that carry Fox and FS1. Here’s tips on how to watch every match.

When will the games happen? Qatar is three hours ahead of London, eight hours ahead of Latest York and 11 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Meaning there will likely be predawn kickoffs on the East Coast of america for some games, and midafternoon starts for 10 p.m. games in Qatar.

Got more questions? We’ve got more answers here.

But that didn’t affect the flow of free beer — or free champagne, Scotch, gin, whiskey, wine and other drinks — available to non-regular fans within the V.I.P., V.V.I.P. and hospitality areas. The principles, it seemed, didn’t apply to them.

At a $3,000-a-seat hospitality lounge at Al Bayt through the U.S.’s game with England, as an example, the bar menu included Taittinger Champagne, Chivas Regal 12-year-old whisky, Martell VSOP brandy and Jose Cuervo 1800 tequila.

“If you should drink, you’ll be able to’t drink within the stadiums,” said Keemya Najmi, who was visiting from Los Angeles together with her family. “So that is just lots more comfortable.”

Also adding to the comfort: a dedicated check-in desk staffed by smiling hosts doling out special passes and little gift bags; a coriander-infused welcome drink that was a jolt to the system; tables bedecked with nuts, dates, popcorn and potato chips; an endlessly sumptuous buffet comprising dishes like slow-cooked lamb shoulder and marinated tuna steak, together with a carving station and a choice of six desserts; and a band belting out cross-cultural fan favorites like “Sweet Caroline.”

In all, there are five tiers of “hospitality” within the stadiums, in line with Match Hospitality, a FIFA partner that operates those sections, starting with $950 stadium seats that serve street-style food, together with wine and beer. At the best end are private suites that cost about $5,000 per person and offer six-course meals prepared by a non-public chef, cocktails served by sommeliers and mixologists and the promise of “guest appearances” by unnamed celebrities.

Probably the most exclusive suite is the Pearl Lounge, right above the halfway line at Lusail Stadium, which offers each guest an “exceptional commemorative gift.” There may be also, in line with someone who has been in it, a set at Al Bayt that, for some reason, boasts a retractable bed and a toilet equipped with a shower.

This World Cup has taken in about $800 million in hospitality seat sales — a sports industry record, a Match Hospitality spokesman said. But a lot of those guests have paid for the privilege, unlike, it seems, the V.I.P.s (or the V.V.I.P.’s).

The taxonomy of V.I.P.-ness has been a matter of some debate amongst those on the opposite side of the velvet ropes. There are different theories. “The V.I.P.s are the sponsors,” declared a lady who, it have to be said, works for certainly one of the sponsors herself and was speaking in a hospitality lounge, not a V.I.P. suite. (She is just not authorized to check with the press and asked that her name not be used.)

No, said a Saudi journalist within the stands who also asked that his name not be used. “The V.I.P.s are often from business and the banking sector,” he said. “The V.V.I.P.s are the emir and the people around him — his family, his father — and foreign officials.” Those would come with, presumably, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who sat near the emir through the opening match, in addition to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who were spotted in a luxury box on the U.S. match.

There’s a consensus that top FIFA officials, like President Gianni Infantino, are V.V.I.P.s, but that other FIFA and FIFA-adjacent personnel are merely V.I.P.s.

Meanwhile, a Qatari involved in organizing logistics for the tournament, who didn’t wish to speak on the record because he is just not allowed to, said that sometimes there may be a surfeit of V.I.P.s at Qatari events. In that case, so many individuals find yourself getting bumped as much as V.V.I.P. status that the organizers are forced to create a recent tier entirely: V.V.V.I.P., the human equivalent of a seven-star hotel.

With all this V.I.P. inflation, is it any wonder that visitors are affected by status anxiety?

On a recent morning at the luxurious Fairmont Doha, a magnet through the tournament for former soccer stars, wealthy businessmen and FIFA grandees, officials were milling around before the primary match of the day. A buff security guard was readily available to repel unwanted visitors.

A member of the FIFA Council, the organization’s governing board, paced the lobby’s marble floors, a cellphone clamped to her right cheek. She was telling the person on the opposite end what number of (free) tickets she required for every game. One other FIFA functionary was meting out already acquired tickets to hotel guests.

The time to go away for the stadium drew close, and two women in navy blazers appeared, holding paddles directing guests to follow them — one for “FIFA V.I.P.s,” the opposite for “FIFA V.V.I.P.s.”

Just a few minutes later, a well-dressed couple received their tickets. The girl peeked inside. The news was bad. “Only V.I.P.,” she murmured.

Within the driveway, the V.V.I.P.s were directed to a fleet of black S.U.V.s. that will ferry them to the match. The V.I.P.s needed to take a bus.

Tariq Panja contributed reporting.

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