Qatar bans serving beer at its World Cup stadiums

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Qatar bans serving beer at its World Cup stadiums

The last-minute ban on alcohol in stadiums during the World Cup, announced by FIFA on Friday, is a symbol of the contradictions of the upcoming World Cup. Qatar is trying to strike a balance between a successful, fan-pleasing tournament and reassuring its Muslim population that they have not compromised religious rules and customs.

But the last-minute twist caused confusion and concern. It also raised questions about the timing of the decision, but also what else could change. When Qatar applied to host the World Cup, it knew, like the rest of the world, that it was an unlikely candidate, reminds the BBC.

And, as a small but very wealthy nation with an austere lifestyle and big ambitions to be a serious player in the sporting world - it has a lot to prove. But as controversial and expensive as it all has been, building the stadium may have been the easier part - compared to getting fans to and from the venues safely, while ensuring they enjoy football and culture.

"I'm actually worried. We've never had anything like this before... With so many people. They all came here at once. I'm worried about what it's going to be like," said one Qatari resident. If you're a football fan traveling to Doha at great expense, you'd be forgiven for not knowing exactly what to expect.

It is a different picture for the citizens of Qatar, who feel a sense of national pride in hosting the World Cup. The ban on the sale of alcohol will be seen as a success for the government, which remains true to the rules that the vast majority of people in Qatar follow.

But there are also questions about why FIFA could not require Qatar to stick to the plan and about consistency. For the 2014 World Cup, they forced Brazil to change their laws on the sale of alcohol at matches. Drinking is not the main reason fans travel to Qatar, but for many, it is part of the football culture.

It is also symbolic of the fine line that Qatar walks: presenting itself on one of the world's biggest stages as a country that is outward-looking and welcoming while maintaining its cultural, religious, and conservative integrity.