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Qatar Bans Beer Sales at 2022 World Cup Venues

Looking forward to a beer shower celebrating a USMNT goal at designated fan zones around the various match venues in Qatar? Not so fast!

In a shock decision just two days before the biggest sporting event on the planet, the government of host nation Qatar has banned the sale of beer and other alcoholic beverages in and around its World Cup stadiums. FIFA confirmed the dramatic reversal in a statement Friday morning.

“Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters,” a portion of their remarks read.

For context, the Islamic nation known for conservative social policies does not fully prohibit alcohol for visitors, but its sale and consumption is strictly regulated. Alcohol is typically only allowed in a handful of specifically licensed hotels and restaurants, and unlike some cities stateside and worldwide, it cannot be consumed out in the open, whether on the street or inside sports arenas.

Previously, it was announced that while alcohol would still be prohibited inside World Cup stadium concourses, official beverage partners would be permitted to sell such beverages in designated fan zones at nearby locations outside each venue. Now, that’s all kaput.

This poses a major issue for Budweiser, which is one of the main sponsors of the tournament and have been since 1985. According to CNN, AB InBev paid $75 million for the sponsorship. Before quickly deleting it, Budweiser had a laugh at the circumstances and tweeted Friday morning, “Well, this is awkward.” Though Budweiser, Bud Light, and other brews won’t be found on the premises, the non-alcoholic option Bud Zero will still be around for consumption.

(For those curious, it has 0 grams of sugar and 50 calories.)

A ban of this extent and with this sort of abrupt timing will obviously irk countless soccer fans, as many regard alcohol to be an integral part of sporting culture. Yes, they can take some solace in knowing drinking is still permitted at FIFA’s official fan village and the hundreds of hotels around Doha welcoming visitors, but perhaps it’s ultimately the most meager of consolations.

One American supporter took matters into his own hands and created a map of restaurants and bars serving spirits near the stadium and other popular tourist spots. So far, the guide has been viewed more than 383,300 times and shared across various social channels.

Spectators paying up for a full-on luxury experience in Qatar may be the only ones who still don’t need to worry about the acohol policy. A special carve-out permits beverages will continue to be served inside stadium VIP suites, which FIFA’s website confirms (as of this writing, anyway!) as offering a wide selection of beers, champagne, sommelier-selected wines, and premium liquor. The vast, vast majority of fans making the trip to the Persian Gulf won’t be able to enjoy this privilege, of course, and this fact will only serve to expose the combination of disorganization, hypocrisy, and controversy that has animated so much of the build-up.

Approximately 1.2 million tourists are expected to make the journey to Qatar for the month-long tournament, more than a third of the Arab country’s three million population. The 2022 FIFA World Cup begins on Sunday, Nov. 20 when the host nation faces Ecuador.

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