Saudi Arabia’s sport minister has insisted that alcohol requirements will not be imposed if the country wins the right to host the World Cup in 2030, with the ongoing beer row in Qatar potentially set to continue in eight years’ time. The lack of alcohol available at this year’s tournament has grabbed the headlines over the last few weeks, with fans only able to drink at specific fan zones and in hotels and restaurants away from streets.
It was initially thought that fans would have been allowed to buy beer in stadiums before World Cup organisers in Qatar went back on their word just a few days before the start of the tournament. It seems as though similar alcohol restrictions may be in place if Saudi Arabia ends up hosting in 2030, with Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal telling Sky News that their decision to avoid selling booze should not be a barrier to staging the World Cup in their country.
When asked if it would be Islamophobic to force Saudi Arabia to allow alcohol sales during the tournament, he said: “Yes, because the World Cup is for everyone. If you are against that, and you don’t feel like you’re going to enjoy your time coming, and you can’t respect that rule, then don’t come. It’s as simple as that.”
Saudi Arabia’s bid for the 2030 edition of the tournament has come under intense scrutiny as of late amid the country’s questionable approach to human rights and draconian laws against homosexuality, which are similar to those in place in Qatar. The killing of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi officials has also raised questions over its suitability to host football’s biggest event, with the former Washington Post columnist’s remains having never been found.
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Prince Abdulaziz went on to insist that Saudi Arabia is changing for the better but refused to provide details on any specific reforms, adding: “Everyone was horrified by what happened [to Khashoggi] and everyone condemned it in the kingdom.
“What the government did in Saudi, they took action to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. We know that Saudi Arabia since a couple of years ago has changed a lot, too. We know that we’re changing towards the future.”
It was also claimed by Prince Abdulaziz that LGBT+ fans would be welcome to attend the World Cup if it is hosted in Saudi Arabia in 2030 but insisted that their rules on public displays of affection will need to be followed by all supporters throughout the tournament.
“I’m sure they’ve come to some of our events,” he said. “We don’t go around asking, ‘Are you gay or straight?’ Everyone’s welcome. There are rules that everyone respects. There are rules that everyone respects about our culture and how they have to abide by the culture that we have.
“So even men and women, they can’t show affection in public places, and so on. And that’s a regulation that we have that we need to respect. And we have to respect the culture.”
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