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Argentina’s head coach Lionel Scaloni, center, leads a training session at Qatar University, in Doha, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz) (AP/JORGE SAENZ)

In a last-minute twist, authorities in Qatar and FIFA announced on Friday that the sale of alcohol will be prohibited outside the World Cup stadiums, where the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in full crisis with Manchester United.

The ban casts a shadow over a commitment by authorities in the small, conservative emirate to ease enforcement of its laws during soccer’s biggest event, to which more than a million fans from around the world are expected to travel.

Alcohol consumption is heavily regulated in the Islamic nation, but organizers had agreed to set times to sell beer before and after games outside the eight stadiums.

The owner of the American beer giant Budweiser, a major sponsor of the World Cup for three decades, has declared that these alcohol restrictions are out of his control.

For the FSA, the England fans’ association, “this last-minute turnaround illustrates a broader problem: the total lack of communication and transparency from the organizing committee regarding the fans.”

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In this March 5, 2015 photo, cans of beer are for sale at McKechnie Stadium in Bradenton, Florida. The organizers of the World Cup in Qatar have banned the sale of alcoholic beer in the eight tournament stadiums. (AP/GENE J PUSKAR)

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“If they can change their minds at any moment, fans will have understandable concerns about their ability to meet other issues, such as accommodation, transport and cultural issues,” warned the FSA, which will have thousands of members. in Doha on Monday for the debut against Iran.

Since its surprise nomination as the tournament host in 2010, to the detriment of favorites the United States, Qatar has been the target of much criticism, ranging from accusations of corruption in the nomination to its treatment of migrant workers, respect for the rights of women and the LGBTIQ+ collective or the environmental impact of the tournament.

According to the British newspaper The Times, which advanced the decision on Friday, the reversal in the sale of alcohol is the result of “considerable pressure” exerted by the Qatari leaders, including the ruling family.

Portugal isolates itself

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In this November 12 photo, a look at the Lusail Stadium in Doha, Qatar. (AP/HASSAN AMMAR)

On the football front, Qatar is still waiting for the arrival of some teams just two days before the ball rolls.

Portugal will land late in the afternoon in the Qatari capital with its star, Cristiano Ronaldoin the eye of the hurricane for his confrontation with Manchester United.

This same Friday the English club announced that it has taken “the pertinent measures” in response to some statements by the veteran striker against his coach, Erik Ten Hag, for whom he said he “has no respect”.

Published over several days, the statements confirm that Ronaldo, who has enjoyed few minutes of play this season, and the ‘Red Devils’ are on the brink of divorce.

To reduce the pressure, the Portuguese will be based away from the other teams, to the east of Doha.

Argentina trains in the Qatari capital

Messi’s Argentina and Mbappe’s France are already in the Qatari capital, as well as other candidates such as Germany and England.

The English are preparing to debut on Tuesday against Iran, a team that will be closely watched in case they express support for the protesters in their country or condemn the repression of the protests.

Its captain, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, stated on Thursday that the choice between celebrating or not celebrating a goal in the 2022 World Cup in support of the protesters in Iran is a “personal decision” of the players.

F-16 escort

In another sign that this World Cup will take place in a very particular context, the Polish team departed with the escort of two F-16 fighter planes through their airspace.

Poland is still reeling from a missile explosion in Przewodow, a small town 6 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, which killed two people earlier this week.

The projectile, which has raised fears of an escalation in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was reportedly fired by Ukrainian air defense with the aim of intercepting Russian attacks.

This escort “is a good thing, it shows the support we give to our players,” said Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.

Only a handful of teams remain to reach Qatar, including Neymar’s Brazil, which will be the last country to disembark on Saturday afternoon, the eve of the opening match.

AFP is a major global information agency that offers fast, proven and comprehensive coverage.

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