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Why the World Cup in Qatar Brings Fans Joy and Anxiety


Kieran Jones, an avid soccer fan who lives in Cardiff, Wales, can inform you all the main points concerning the last time his beloved Welsh national team made it to the World Cup. It was 1958, nearly a decade before he was born. A young after which little-known Brazilian named Pelé scored the goal that knocked Wales from the tournament.

“I’ve seen footage of that Pelé goal persistently,” said Jones, 57, with wryness in his voice. “Actually, too persistently.”

As we spoke over the phone, Jones was preparing for a six-hour flight to Qatar, the tiny Arab country that on Sunday became the primary nation within the Middle East to host the World Cup. Jones plans to remain in Qatar as long as his side stays within the 29-day tournament, which for Wales starts Monday, when it plays the US.

“It’s time to make recent memories,” he said.

Along with his team finally back within the thick of the quadrennial celebration of the world’s game, one might think Jones could be feeling pure, unfiltered joy.

But he has loads of worries. Jones is a volunteer ambassador for F.S.A. Cymru, Wales’s biggest soccer fan group. A part of his job in Qatar: help Welsh supporters who run into trouble in a nation with a dubious human rights record and strict, conservative laws.

“The sensation is trepidation,” he said.

His group usually attends the most important soccer tournaments in Europe, where he typically helps fans with lost passports and other mundane matters.

Paul Corkrey, left, and Kieran Jones are working for fan group F.S.A. Cymru in Doha. A part of their mission is to offer support to fans who might run into trouble in a rustic with strict laws.Credit…Courtesy Keiran Jones

In Qatar, well, let’s just say the experience may very well be more fraught.

In its guidebook and on social media channels aimed toward World Cup ticket holders from Wales, Jones’s group doesn’t mince words.

Don’t bring alcohol to Qatar.

Don’t bring drugs. Even for small amounts, the penalties are severe.

Don’t offend. Don’t swear.

No displays of public affection. Rude gestures are considered obscene, and offenders will be jailed. Take particular care when coping with the police and other officials.

A Transient 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 yr’s host is Qatar, which in 2010 beat the US and Japan to win the best 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 often takes place in July. But in 2015, FIFA concluded that the summer temperatures in Qatar may need unpleasant consequences for fans and players 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 best to come back 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’ll be able to livestream it on Peacock, or on streaming services that carry Fox and FS1. Here’s the right way to watch every match.

When will the games happen? Qatar is five 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 the US for some games, and midafternoon starts for 10 p.m. games in Qatar.

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

“We’ve said to the feminine fans, ‘Don’t walk around on your individual,’” Jones told me. “‘Walk around in groups.’” Also, no shorts or short-sleeve shirts around religious sites.

Qatar presents such danger and uncertainty for anyone who’s gay or transgender that a thriving organization of L.G.B.T.Q. soccer fans, Wales’s Rainbow Wall, decided to not attend, Jones said.

His supporter group will send 3,000 fans to Qatar. He estimated that one other 6,000 Wales devotees would make it to the games. What number of would go if the World Cup were in a less troubled country? Thrice more, he said. “At least.”

There has never been a World Cup like this. Rooted in the guts of the Middle East and the Arab world for the primary time, thousands and thousands of fans in Qatar and watching from home will encounter a culture often misunderstood and demonized by the West. In a technique, it’s a gap of doors that feels beautiful, essential and overdue.

And yet … and yet, together with the allure of possibilities for higher understanding, the Cup once more thrusts the world of sport back right into a vexing abyss.

The hosting of worldwide sporting events by dictators and authoritarians has develop into all too familiar, forcing fans right into a kind of devil’s bargain: loving sports while constantly navigating the minefield often called “sportswashing” — an try and use grand celebrations of athletics as a shield.

In the case of the ugly a part of that bargain, there’s much to think about.

FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, claims that it really works to foster a welcoming environment for all. But in Qatar, men control women’s rights, freedom of expression is restricted and homosexuality is against the law. Recently, a Qatari World Cup ambassador said the nation’s draconian L.G.B.T.Q. laws should be respected and that homosexuality was “damage within the mind.”

Then there’s the human misery attributable to Qatar because it built $300 billion price of stadiums and other infrastructure for the World Cup virtually from scratch. Journalists and human rights observers from outside Qatar say tons of, if not hundreds, of staff died in the course of the construction, though the Qataris offer a far lower toll.

“Unfortunately, of the thousands and thousands of residents from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal who’ve lived in Qatar from 2011 to 2019, a really small percentage have sadly passed away,” reads a response by the federal government to a report of hundreds of employee deaths.

Because it developed for the World Cup, Qatar leaned on the “kafala” system, wherein immigrant laborers aren’t allowed to return home and even switch jobs without permission from their bosses. The United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other like-minded groups have condemned the practice.

Loads of the players will make their unhappiness known. Several European teams plan to send their captains to the sphere with heart-shaped, multicolored, “One Love” armbands to signal support for inclusivity. The USA national team will festoon its off-field events and headquarters with the rainbow logo.

Denmark recently unveiled black jerseys meant to protest for human rights and mourn the migrant laborers who died constructing sites for the tournament.

All of this leaves many fans who love soccer for its on-field displays of glorious, gob-smacking athleticism watching with dismay.

“Let me inform you, it’s challenging,” said Eboni Christmas, a Raleigh, N.C., member of the American Outlaws, an umbrella group of soccer supporters with chapters coast to coast.

Regarding human rights in Qatar, Christmas was unsparing. “There isn’t one thing that basically stands out that’s terrible,” she said. “It’s every part. It’s all bad.”

Still, as a Black gay woman, she is especially concerned about L.G.B.T.Q. fans who travel to the Middle Eastern nation for the 29-day competition.

Christmas plans to attend the Women’s World Cup next summer in Australia and Latest Zealand. But she never considered traveling to Qatar.

“I won’t validate how they treat people like me by giving them my money,” she said, noting that she held the identical stance when the Cup was held in Russia, a nation with similarly noxious laws.

“Russia was already a really hard one for L.G.B.T.Q. soccer fans, so that is just sort of like a continuous train,” she said. “We’re still getting run over.”

So, she’s going to approach this World Cup competition the best way lots of us will: wary and with muted fervor. Her enthusiasm for her favorite squad will stay the identical. She’s going to watch every U.S. national team game from a reserved booth at The Bridge, a brick-walled bar in Raleigh that serves as a stomping ground for soccer fans.

She plans to pay little attention to the remaining of the tournament. Silent protest, but protest nonetheless.

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