Thousands of fans pushed and shoved their way through police lines to enter a fan zone for the World Cup. Riot police armed with batons and shields stood guard at the entrance. Fans pleaded with the police to let them in.
Riot police converged on the fan zone in central Doha on Sunday, the day of the first World Cup game. The fan festival featured a big screen television, bars and beer for sale. Some fans claim they were crushed in the crowd on their way to the fan zone. Others feared a stampede.
There were also allegations of discrimination against LGBTQ people. Qatar’s state-backed discrimination against LGBTQ people has been criticized in years leading up to the World Cup. In addition, several European clubs were unhappy with the move to avoid the Gulf summer heat. However, the Royal Family intervened.
In a statement, the Qatar Sports Council said it was committed to an “inclusive” World Cup. “We will take steps to ensure that the World Cup is free from discrimination, and will strive to ensure that all fans are welcomed. In addition, we will take steps to ensure that the World Cup experience is an authentic representation of Qatari culture and values,” the Soccer Committee said in a statement.
In addition, the International Labor Organization has noted Qatar’s non-discriminatory minimum wage. The World Cup is expected to put significant pressure on the infrastructure in Qatar. It has been estimated that the country’s population will grow by 40% during the tournament.
The fan festival in central Doha was attended by tens of thousands of fans. A huge crowd of people gathered to watch the opening game, between Qatar and Ecuador, which the Gulf state lost 2-0. The fan festival, which is hosted by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, included beer for sale. But the eve of the tournament saw controversy over the sale of alcohol inside stadiums.
Alcohol was only sold at certain times of the day. Some locals were unhappy about the sale, however, despite the intervention of the Qatari royal family.
In a statement, the Qatari royal family said they “want to give the people of Qatar a fair and equal World Cup experience.” Qatar’s human rights record has also been in the spotlight ahead of the tournament. The Western media has been largely focused on the controversy surrounding the World Cup and the host nation. Despite the criticism, the host nation is expected to shrug off the allegations of migrant abuses and human rights violations.
In addition to the riot police, several nations have also agreed to send security personnel to Qatar for the World Cup. Turkey will send more than 3,000 riot police and 50 bomb specialists to the country. French riot cops have also been dispatched to Qatar. In addition, seven other countries have signed safety cooperation agreements with Qatar this year.
Qatar has spent millions preparing for the World Cup. The country has only appeared in a World Cup tournament once in its history. It is expected to have more than 1.2 million fans watch the tournament.