Soccer World Cup: What German fans can expect on their trip to Qatar

It has been a long time since the anticipation among German football fans for a World Cup was as low as it was this time.

Soccer World Cup: What German fans can expect on their trip to Qatar

It has been a long time since the anticipation among German football fans for a World Cup was as low as it was this time. Rejection, calls for a boycott or simple lack of interest in what is probably the most controversial tournament in World Cup history characterize the debates among supporters. But the stadiums in Qatar will probably be full most of the time, even when the German team plays. "But it is questionable whether the general conditions are right, that an atmosphere develops that should actually make up a World Cup," says Philipp Beitzel, one of the heads of the German fan embassy in Doha, the German Press Agency.

Fan representatives assume that 7,000 to 9,000 fans from Germany will travel to the tournament, most of whom will attend several games. According to the world association FIFA, a total of 35,000 tickets have been sold to Germany. That is significantly less than for the tournament in Russia in 2018, when around 62,000 tickets went to Germany. More than 58,000 tickets were sold in Germany for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The "National Team Fan Club" organized by the German Football Association said: "We would have preferred a solution other than a World Cup in Qatar for our members and all fans of the national team."

The organizers announced in mid-October that almost 2.9 million tickets for the 64 games had been sold. This means that around seven percent of the spectator seats are still available, it said. The last minute sales phase is currently running and will be open until the end of the tournament. According to Fifa, the cards will be awarded "on a first come, first served basis".

During the World Cup, foreigners can only enter Qatar with the so-called Hayya Card. This "Fan ID" is only available to holders of World Cup tickets. For a fee of 140 euros each, fans can register up to three more people with a Hayya card, who can later travel to Qatar. The Hayya Card must be presented with the ticket when visiting the stadium. However, data protectionists are critical of the smartphone app and advise using a second cell phone if possible.

The fan embassy, ​​supported by the DFB, offers its services around every World Cup game played by the German team. "We will provide as much help as possible there," said DFB President Bernd Neuendorf to SWR. There will also be contacts for German fans in the stadium. Meanwhile, the World Cup camp of the "National Team Fan Club" is in Dubai. It was said that accommodation in Qatar could not be implemented for organizational reasons. There has already been criticism because of the necessary shuttle flights from fans to Doha. The DFB emphasized that "our fans do not have to charter any additional flights, but we split our group between the existing flight offers."

Qatar expects 1.2 million international guests during the World Cup. In the small emirate, the hotel capacities are not sufficient for this, the room prices often shot up enormously. Hotel ships or tent camps only partially remedy the situation and are not really cheap either. Therefore, fans switch to surrounding countries such as Dubai, Bahrain or Oman.

Qatar is a conservative country with a law shaped by Islamic moral concepts. Despite all the assurances from the tournament hosts, German fan representative Philipp Beitzel says: "There is a certain amount of uncertainty because you don't know what the practice will be like on site." When it comes to clothing, the Federal Foreign Office advises a certain level of restraint. Kissing in public is frowned upon. The serving of alcohol is severely restricted, it may not be brought from abroad. There are said to be separate sobering zones for heavily intoxicated fans. Getting drunk in public is illegal in Qatar.

Recently, statements by a Qatari World Cup ambassador that being gay is "mentally damaging" caused a stir. In Qatar, homosexuality is forbidden by law. The hosts and FIFA have repeatedly assured that all fans are welcome during the World Cup. Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) says she brought a "security guarantee" from the Prime Minister that all fans could move freely and without fear during the tournament. However, human rights organizations and the network of gay and lesbian fan clubs advise homosexual fans not to travel to Qatar.

According to the media, the organizing committee pays selected fans to travel to the tournament so that they can create a good atmosphere there and on social networks. Flights, accommodation and pocket money are therefore included for participants in the "Fan Leader Network". German fans are also among them, as the DFB of the “Sportschau” confirmed. Accordingly, these activities are not supported by the association. In addition, videos recently caused a stir on the Internet, which allegedly show happy people in jerseys from different national teams traveling through Doha. Some observers criticized the images as a crudely staged attempt to create the appearance of great anticipation among fans in Qatar ahead of the World Cup. The organizing committee rejected this at DPA's request. "Qatar and the rest of the world is made up of a diverse group of football fans, many of whom have emotional ties to multiple nations," it said. The criticism was "both disappointing and not surprising".