Government Advice for USMNT Fans in Qatar: Where to Report Crimes, Follow Local Laws and Get Emergency Alerts

Their first World Cup in eight years means certain documents in US government buildings will be dusted.

The State Department, which is responsible for keeping American fans safe in Qatar, estimates that around 50,000 citizens will travel to the Gulf state during the tournament, which presents unique challenges.

This is the first World Cup to be held in a Muslim country, so the department is keen to accommodate cultural sensitivities.

However, FIFA’s controversial host choice also brings with it other potential difficulties – vague laws regarding protests, the lack of clarity on LGBT+ rights and potential problems with reporting sexual violence.

the athlete was invited to interview Angela Kerwin, Assistant Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizens Services at the Office of Consular Affairs, and Daniel Benaim, Assistant Assistant Secretary for the Arabian Peninsula at the Office of Middle East Affairs, who have helped lead government planning.

The conversation included:

  • Why fans should report sexual violence to the embassy, ​​not the local police
  • What First Amendment rights will US citizens waive?
  • What the US is learning ahead of 2026 alignment

What will be present in terms of presence on the ground in Qatar?

“Our US Embassy in Qatar in Doha will take the lead for the US government. And that’s where our consular section takes the lead for US citizens. We have increased the number of consular officers available to us. It’s very similar to what we did in Brazil. And actually quite similar to other major events like the Olympic Games.

“We started working with Qatar about two years ago – we weren’t just thinking about how to keep our fans safe and secure, but how they could have a good time. Hopefully we can continue to provide our fans with information leading up to the finals on December 18th.”

What is the US government’s stance on reporting sexual violence? The UK government advises thinking carefully before informing the local police as there is a risk of prosecution for having sex outside of marriage. Does the United States have similar concerns?

“That is exactly right. We advise our US citizens that if they are victims of a crime, particularly sexual assault, they should notify the embassy immediately.

“What we can do as an embassy, ​​we can offer options, we can let them know what we know about the situation on the ground, about where they can get medical care if they need it. What we’ve found in violent crime cases is that no matter the type of violent crime, our citizens have some comfort and the ability to talk to family members – we can help make that easier.

“But our suggestion is that we go to the US Embassy in case of any kind of sexual assault so we can provide as much information and allow our US citizens to make their decisions based on this recommendation.”

Despite what FIFA may say, the World Cup is still an inherently political event. Concerns were raised about several aspects of the tournament – LGBT+ laws, migrant workers’ rights, women’s freedom. What would be the advice for American visitors considering a protest?

“Our advice to citizens, no matter where in the world they travel, is that the laws of different countries will not necessarily be the same laws as those of the United States.

“In this case, we specifically emphasized that the First Amendment protections available under the US Constitution are not available abroad. The laws of the host country, whatever the country, will be different than the US and the best we can do is arm our citizens with that information.”

Weston McKennie poses for photos with fans in Doha this week (Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images)

FA CEO Mark Bullingham said he had given assurances that LGBT+ fans should feel safe showing their affection publicly. But in April, Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, a senior figure who oversees security in Qatar, said rainbow flags could be confiscated from supporters, claiming it would protect them from violence by anti-LGBT+ supporters. How can they sit together?

“We believed the Emir’s words when he said that he welcomes everyone to the World Cup and that Qatar welcomes everyone to the World Cup. We take him at his word.

“I think LGBT+ travelers face unique challenges not only in Qatar but in many places around the world. And these challenges can vary from place to place. We have a special category of information for these travelers as well as a few other categories such as: B. Female travellers.

“We would encourage them to sign up for our smart traveler registration program that we have in place in case we need to pass on an emergency alert.”

On Friday morning we heard the news that Qatar had banned the sale of beer in stadiums, contradicting a previous assurance. Are there fears that other assurances will be changed, such as the safety of LGBT+ fans? If they change, how will the United States react?

“We woke up with the same information as when selling beer. The key is – how quickly can we let people know? How quickly can we provide changes to information to our US citizens? The short reply is ASAP, we can send emergency notifications to you.”

This is not only the first World Cup in a Muslim country, but also one of the first major sporting events. How has the government provided adequate cultural awareness?

“It’s one of those calculated situations where you don’t want to bombard people too far in advance because they forget, they lose, the information changes.

“But we reached out to influencers who touch the football world — the USMNT, a handful of reporters, the American Outlaws fan group. They reinforce our messages.

“Our embassies and consulates around the world are constantly updating our information. We have country-specific information that we update at least annually and more frequently than that, leveraging our staff’s local knowledge. We work incredibly closely with the local authorities.”

Looking ahead, does the government see this as an opportunity to learn ahead of hosting the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico?

“You are absolutely right. We have a number of US government officials in Doha right now throughout the World Cup who are working very closely with their Qatari counterparts – not just to make sure this World Cup goes well, but also to ensure the to learn lessons from it.

“Every World Cup brings innovation, and whatever positive results we can gather together with our Canadian and Mexican partners, we want to implement in the United States. Right now our focus is on the safety of US fans.”

(Top photo: Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images)

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