DOHA, Qatar – England’s fans have been among the most visible supporters at every World Cup and Qatar is no different.
Despite concerns about hosting the world’s biggest tournament in a conservative Muslim country where public intoxication is illegal, homosexuality is punishable by jail and women’s rights are severely curtailed, England’s die-hard fans have still flocked to their Star cast cheer cadres. England fans who spoke to this reporter felt their trip and the inconveniences endured were worth the opportunity to witness England become world champions.
“We’re going to win the World Cup,” said several English fans. Supporters made it an adventure negotiating the first-ever World Cup in the Middle East, particularly as they grappled with the limitations of traditional celebrations.
Take, for example, where and how to “have a pint”. Tucked away in a hotel with live music, reliable crowds, and the intended English pub aesthetic, Red Lion Doha has quickly become a favorite. State-licensed hotel bars typically have expensive menus and long lines or reservations required to enter.
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When it came to the conditions in Qatar, fans like Matt, who preferred to use his first name but noted he is from Nottingham, reflected on what makes Qatar so unique in their sixth World Cup.
“There’s no shortage of bars per se, but there’s not exactly an abundance either,” says Matt. “It’s a little strange going into restaurants and not being able to order an alcoholic drink – not that that’s a big problem – it’s just something we’re used to at home.
“So it’s my first time in the Middle East [it’s just about] We need to adjust to obvious cultural differences and make sure we respect Qatar’s rules and traditions.”
Another thing that made this experience unique is the size of the host country. This presented logistical problems for FIFA as Qatar had to deal with a larger number of fans than the total number of Qatari citizens. It also created an atmosphere like no other considering fans from all participating nations are all in the city of Doha.
To make room for fans in attendance, Qatar has created a variety of accommodation options, including critically acclaimed fan village cabins and cruise ship accommodation. Another England fan, now attending their eighth World Cup, mentioned that staying on a cruise ship is expensive but excellent.
The rules were strict. Some visitors had items confiscated to enter stadiums. These ranged from a lighter one to crusader costumes worn by fans dressed up as English knights, which was a tradition for some fans even before the tournament.
Still, the mood among most Three Lions supporters was upbeat. Matt remarked: “[The mood is] very positive, both about the country and our chances. I think we were all pleasantly surprised by Qatar.”
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England fans are no strangers to negative press. Their own reputation precedes them – fair or not.
Other fans will surely tell you it’s true. From table to table at the Red Lion, travelers were present supporting England, Wales, Australia, Croatia, Mexico and Brazil.
When informed that this article was about England fans, one woman jokingly instructed: “Make sure you write how rude you are.”
Shrouded in the quips and clichés about England’s fans is an undeniable level of respect. Every England supporter was steadfast in predicting their side’s victory. England’s reputation for loyal support is impressive – a testament to a proud culture in a storied sport known around the world.
There is certainly a lot of confidence in England’s chances this year. For a team full of outstanding talent, who has the momentum to have reached the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finals, who lost in the 2020 European Championship final, and who is one of many bettors’ favorites to win in Doha, it is a wish , which is justified.
“I go into these tournaments with a lot of hope but no expectation,” Matt said. “But it’s the hope that kills you… look no further than 2018 [World Cup] Semi-finals and last year’s European Championship final.”
The 6-2 win over Iran in the opening game of this year’s World Cup in England was quite a smashing start to the new season and the English fans here in Qatar are riding so high. But before the round of 16, England meet the United States on Friday and neighboring Wales on November 29.
The United States will be the underdogs as a talented but remarkably young team meets their more experienced counterparts at the other end. In the stands, US fans, who also traveled to Doha in impressive numbers, will join in a jubilant contest with some of the game’s most vocal fans.
England fans are famous for their witty songs, which they chant at an impressive volume throughout the game. One that has become a particular favorite in Doha for this holiday season tournament is a take on a Christmas classic:
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to see England win!”
When it came to the American fans’ support, the English fans were quick to criticize them. “You need more songs,” said one man, specifying, “You only sing, USA!”
Notwithstanding many predictions touting a lopsided English victory, the England v United States game in Qatar will be one for the history books. Despite the confidence that England fans exude, there is a certain awareness that really anything can happen.
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