As drama unfolds in Qatar, Arizona fans gather to watch US men’s soccer

Despite controversy in Qatar, Arizona soccer fans were still drawn to the World Cup. Fans celebrate a US goal at the Crown Public House in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronktie News)

Flags from around the world are displayed in the Crown Public House’s sports bar, where fans gathered to watch the US men’s national team. (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Red, white and blue signs were taped to windows at the Crown Public House on Monday, but one carried a message that stood out from the rest: ‘You’ll have more fun watching games here than there.

Considering Qatar has banned the sale of alcohol in stadiums for this year’s World Cup and US fans enjoyed a pint or two (or three) in Phoenix this weekday afternoon, the message was throughout the United States’ 1-1 draw accurate and obvious against Wales to open their World Cup match in Group B. The opening game was the Americans’ first World Cup game since 2014 after failing to qualify in 2018.

“Missing the last World Cup was pretty pathetic for a country our size,” said Dave Woodruff, one of several dozen football fans wearing a red, white and blue USA jersey at the Crown Public House. “I’m glad they decided to eliminate some of the older players who were good but not good enough.”

Crown Public House co-owner Jason Bell, who has run the bar for five years, hosted fans of the United States for the first time during a Men’s World Cup. The venue caters to Liverpool fans during club football season.

Bell expects large crowds like Monday to continue showing up over the next month.

“It’s exciting. We’re expecting some really big days out of it,” Bell said. “There’s 3 o’clock games, 6 o’clock games, noon games… there’s going to be some really big involvements.”

During the US game against Wales, which marked the beginning of a new era in American football and which will extend to the 2026 World Cup on North American soil in existing football and soccer, there was not an empty seat at the bar or at the tables in stadiums 16 cities in Canada, USA and Mexico.

The hosting of the tournament will likely bring a welcome improvement over this year. Many fans have struggled to justify their enjoyment of the tournament due to the measures Qatar has taken as hosts and its human rights record as a nation.

But world championships marred by off-field issues are nothing new, Woodruff said.

“There has probably not been a World Cup in history that hasn’t had some kind of trouble,” said Woodruff, 62. “I was in Brazil in 2014 and we were in stadiums that I was sure were going to fall.”

Despite a long history of negative press, this year’s tournament has emerged as one of the more dysfunctional and corrupt world championships than others, both on and beneath the surface.

Qatar won the 2022 FIFA World Cup bid in December 2010, in large part due to the country’s wealth and its ability to financially influence two members of the FIFA Executive Committee.

“I just feel like FIFA is the one that’s dirty,” Bell said. “They were paid to be there.”

Steve Lynch, left, and Dave Woodruff were among those watching as the USA men’s team opened their Group B game with a 1-1 draw against Wales. (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

Most countries bidding for the World Cup require a cluster of eight to ten mostly operational, world-class stadiums. When Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup – one of the biggest sporting events in the world – only one of the current eight stadiums in Qatar existed.

Khalifa International Stadium opened in 1976, but the seven other stadiums had to be built and completed by November 2022, less than 12 years later. To meet the demands of hosting, Qatar brought in tens of thousands of migrant workers to build the stadiums and other infrastructure. Many of these workers say they have faced poor pay and inhumane conditions, such as B. Living in crowded buildings, often without running water and adequate sanitation.

The daily set-up took place in dangerous heat, the average temperature in the summer months was over 45 degrees, which is why this World Cup is the first to take place in winter.

Up to 6,500 people from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have reportedly died since Qatar won the World Cup, the Guardian reported after gathering intelligence from government sources. That number doesn’t necessarily mean the deaths were World Cup-related.

Still, many fans in Phoenix and around the world feel guilty for supporting the World Cup.

“I don’t think it should be there,” said England’s Steve Lynch. “The associated corruption and human rights issues are not helping.”

When the game started on Monday, fans didn’t seem to care what country the stadium was in. The bar crowd grew increasingly frustrated with the referee after the USA men’s team’s Sergiño Dest and Weston McKennie received two early yellow cards.

The mood quickly changed in the 36th minute as Christian Pulisic drew several defenders before delivering a perfect ball to Timothy Weah who found the back of the net and sent the Crown Public House into euphoric “USA” chants.

Wales dominated the second half and eventually earned a penalty which Gareth Bale converted from the point in the 82nd minute. Despite shouts of encouragement from the Phoenix bar in the last eight minutes plus injury time, the US team failed to score a winning goal.

After picking up just one point in the draw against Wales, USA face an even tougher task on Friday: England. The Three Lions have won a 6-2 win against Iran.

While a loss to England wouldn’t completely shut the United States out of cup competition, it would create a scenario where coach Gregg Berhalter and his players would need serious help from uncontrollable scenarios, even with a US win over Iran.

Lynch and Woodruff respected the Iranian players’ decision not to sing their national anthem in support of human rights protests in their home country.

Also notable about this game was the absence of the “One Love” ribbon on England captain Harry Kane’s arm. Kane and several other European captains had planned to wear the ribbons in support of inclusion. When FIFA informed them that this could lead to consequences on the pitch such as: B. a yellow card, players seemed to have dropped the idea and sparked more public criticism.

“I’m enjoying the games,” Lynch said. “But what happens behind it spoils it a bit.”

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