Many supporters were up in arms at the idea of the World Cup taking place in a conservative country like Qatar where the sale of alcohol is highly restricted, but for some female fans it has led to a safer experience at the tournament.
“I was expecting a very dangerous place for women. I didn’t think I was going to be safe here … from coming here that’s not been the case, as a travelling female fan I can say that I have felt very safe,” England fan Ellie Molloson told Reuters.
Molloson, who is an ambassador for a campaign to tackle sexism in football called HerGameToo, said that her father had been so concerned that he accompanied her to Qatar to ensure that she would be safe, but it turned out his services as a chaperone were not needed.
The 19-year-old said that the lack of alcohol had contributed to a less bawdy atmosphere around the games at the World Cup, but in her opinion it was mostly cultural.
“I think it actually is due to a more socially conservative society. I think alcohol contributes a bit more to hostility, rather than things like catcalling, wolf whistling and sexual harassment,” she explained.
“I do like a lot of banter, I love a good atmosphere, you don’t really get so much of that here, It’s very very different, but with that it’s much more pleasant, much more family-friendly … but you do not have quite the same atmosphere as you would in England.”
Argentina fan Ariana Gold, 21, told Reuters she was nervous before travelling to the Middle East as she did not know what to expect.
“It’s really nice for women, I am very fond of football and when I was in my country I thought maybe this (Qatar) is an area for only men, and maybe it is uncomfortable for women but no, I am very comfortable and it is very nice here,” she said.
Alcohol is available in some bars and hotels in Qatar, but there is a conspicuous lack of the kind of consumption usually seen at the world’s biggest football tournament.
“It’s quite a good atmosphere still, even though there’s no drink and everyone’s being sensible,” England fan Emma Smith said. “Everyone’s getting on with it and everyone’s happy.”
Has the 33-year-old from Sheffield felt safe in Qatar?
“Yeah definitely, definitely — because there’s no alcohol involved, it feels really safe,” she said.