England had a World Cup game, but first their fans had a job to do. For beer.

DOHA, Qatar – Faced with the troubling prospect of going through an entire World Cup game alcohol-free after Qatari authorities banned the sale of beer in and around stadiums, Matthew Wyatt did what any England fan would do in a similar emergency. He implemented his backup plan.

“He was under pressure to find a suitable facility,” explained his friend Mel Kenny.

One option was to consult the Qatar Alcohol Map, a list of drinking establishments compiled by a concerned American that spread like samizdat as fans flocked to this tiny, mostly alcohol-free nation. But Wyatt and Kenny instead made their way to the Red Lion, a pub tucked away discreetly in a Doha hotel that, as the Daily Star helpfully reported at home, “is a boozy desert oasis for beer-hungry England fans.” “ bot. It was already teeming with fans.

Of course, fans of many countries enjoy beer with football. Americans and Argentines, Germans and Mexicans and (mostly) everything in between. But something remains about the English.

“I’ve never seen a sober English football fan in my life,” said a 36-year-old fan named Simon, who declined to give his last name, perhaps because he was being a little cocky himself. Referring to alcohol and England games, he said: “I think the word is ‘essential’. Or “mandatory”. Or several other synonyms.”

Or as Brad Hirst, who had traveled all the way from Burnley, a suburb of Manchester, said: “If you can’t drink, then what for?”

“Oasis” was one way to describe the Red Lion. On Monday it appeared to be something of a green zone for the England fans, who tried to drink as much as possible before making their way to the Khalifa International Stadium where their side were due to play Iran. (They then happily serenaded their team as they won 6-2.)

Fans all had their individual approaches.

“We’re drinking,” Wyatt said, referring to the many empty beer bottles and many full water bottles at her stall. “Just like the instructions the British Embassy sent to us.”

A few tables down, Gary Douglas, 52, was measuring time in pint glasses. “We got here six beers ago,” he said. Douglas and his friend Neil Tattersall, 43, appraised their second round, six more pints – three each – in a row. (“I’m just too lazy to queue up every time,” Tattersall said of buying in bulk.) They figured they had an extra hour, give or take.

Fans took a nuanced view of the World Cup’s sudden beer ban. Many felt it was important to respect Qatari culture and that they did not mind abstaining from alcohol during actual playing time as it was a common rule in Premier League stadiums and elsewhere in Europe.

But the sudden decree had taken her by surprise and upset her long-term drinking schedule ahead of the tournament. And they fretted at being deprived of the opportunity to drink and socialize near the stadium before the game, a ritual that regularly brings together even supporters of different teams, usually mortal enemies, ahead of matches at home and abroad.

The new rule in Qatar meant they had to cram more alcohol into a shorter period of time, followed by too long a beer-free period. (Except for water. Or Budweiser Zero, whose name speaks for itself.)

“We drink five bottles at a time rather than slowing ourselves down, which isn’t a good idea,” admitted Hirst, 32.

Qatar has strict rules regarding alcohol and has made it easier for them to allow World Cup fans to drink at designated times and places. However, visitors are still not allowed to smuggle bottles of liquor into hotels to sip on surreptitiously before decanting onto the streets. Nor can you and your friends roam around town en masse, spilling beer, singing incoherent chants, or drunkenly insulting people from other countries.

It’s hard for England fans to give up these activities that are so much a part of their football culture, even though football’s worst days of hooliganism are a thing of the past.

“To refuse an Englishman a beer is to starve an Englishman,” said Kenny, who mentioned (repeatedly) that he had turned 50 that day.

Wyatt and Kenny, who met many years ago as students at the University of Manchester, have attended five World Cups together, starting with Japan and Korea in 2002. (They missed Russia 2018.) Some of their fondest tournament memories revolve around drinking , you said. In Japan, Sapporo Brewery hosted an epic event where fans could drink as much beer and eat as much grilled beef as they wanted for a set amount of time; Wyatt and Kenny thought it might have been 150 minutes; they couldn’t remember exactly.

At another stop on this trip, Kenny drank so much he almost couldn’t make it out of the train station to the England-Sweden game. “I told him, ‘You’re going on without me,'” he recalled.

But Wyatt refused to leave him behind. “He gave me something, like a candy bar, and it revived me,” Kenny said. The game, they both recalled, was a draw.

At this point kick-off was approaching and the fans at the Red Lion were getting loud. Some recorded the standard England chant, just repeating “England” over and over, only it sounded like “Ing-er-land”. Paul Farrell, who was dressed as St George, the patron saint of England – his costume consisted of a linen tunic, chainmail hood and tailored shield – said he wasn’t drunk per se but “high on life”. .”

As he left, he began singing a punchy chorus of “They’ll be no drink in Qatar” to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”.

The England fans then left the bar for the stadium, only to be replaced by a new group: Welsh fans, resplendent in their dragon badges, and the Dutch fans, all in orange.

“We always drink before a game but we don’t go out to fight,” said Thomas Bowen, 27, of Wales.

He said that while he respects the English approach, his compatriots have their own traditions. “They get pretty rowdy,” he said. “We just like to sing”

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