Bars and cafes expecting a spike in bookings
Twelve years after former Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced Qatar as a host, the World Cup is finally underway.
An event that normally fills fans with impatient trepidation, this year’s World Cup has been under a cloud for a very long time for several different reasons.
Blatant violations of human rights, poor and dangerous working conditions spread around the Gulf country’s construction sites, and bribery accusations against members of the football governing body’s executive committee are drawing people away from the World Cup.
Cyprus is no exception. As in many countries around Europe, in stadiums around the island for the past weeks, fans of different teams have voiced their disappointment towards the upcoming event.
During the league game against rivals Anorthosis, Omonia Nicosia fans unrolled a banner calling for a boycott of the World Cup. Anti-Qatar chants were also heard in Limassol and Paphos.
“We cannot stand by idly and pretend that this will be a normal World Cup,” Giorgos, 27, an Omonia Nicosia fan, told the Cyprus Mail.
“I will not be watching a single game from Qatar and I know for a fact that many other fans in Cyprus will do the same.”
Other fans, despite the skepticism and the disappointment, said it is too late to boycott the event, claiming that a similar response would be a case of ‘too little, too late.’
“Boycotting it now makes no sense whatsoever. Something should have been done immediately after it was assigned back in 2010, now it would be just opportunistic, it’s a trend,” said Andreas, a student at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia.
“I have watched every World Cup since I started following football and I will watch this one as well. Do I agree with what Qatar is doing? Absolutely not, but the blame is on Fifa and on the event’s sponsors, it cannot be the fans’ responsibility to send a message.
“And anyway, it’s way too late now, nothing can be done. I only hope that in the future the World Cup will be assigned to more deserving countries.”
Throughout the group stage, which will last until December 2, there will be four games per day and, bar the last of the three scheduled games for each team, they will all take place at noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm, meaning fans will be able to choose between a coffee in the afternoon at cafes and a drink and meal in the evening at bars or pubs.
Normally associated with summer, this year’s World Cup is taking place between November and December, as the extreme heat made hosting it in June and July impossible, meaning usual scenes of fans enjoying their summer holidays while watching the event will not take place.
That said, pubs and bars are still expecting a spike in booking throughout the next month, particularly during matches played in the evening.
“Many people have already booked a table for next week,” said a manager at B.R. Hub in Strovolos, one of Nicosia’s most popular sports bars.
“We are expecting a full house almost every evening during the World Cup, especially after the group stage, when the knockout phase will start.”
He added he did not feel that people are less interested in this year’s event compared to other years.
“Football is still football. The World Cup will always attract fans to places such as bars and pubs, no matter the controversies behind it,” he said.
The World Cup is also associated with collective watching. Scenes of jubilant fans celebrating their team’s successes – not so much in Cyprus, unfortunately – are part of what makes the important event memorable.
Despite the fact that fans in Cyprus are still waiting for their national team’s historic first ever qualification to the tournament, they will also be able to witness the action on a giant screen recently installed at Neo Plaza mall outside Nicosia.
“It is the biggest outdoor screen in Cyprus at the moment and a perfect way to enjoy the World Cup,” the mall’s managing director Neophytos Neophytou told the Cyprus Mail.
The giant screen, which cost around €80,000, is located at the entrance of the mall and will be used for advertising purposes once the World Cup is over.
“We are planning to show all the matches on the screen. With games held at different times throughout the day, we expect more people visiting the bars and restaurants located in front of the screen. I think it will be a success,” he said.
Controversial and dividing like never before, the World Cup in Qatar is going to leave a mark on people’s minds. It remains to be seen whether its legacy will change the way world football is perceived around the globe, Cyprus included.