Official-looking flyers have circulated on social media describing cultural expectations for fans attending the World Cup in Qatar. Some include rules for women’s attire: Shoulders and knees must be covered.
Problem is, it’s bogus.
While the local organizing committee suggests that fans “respect the culture,” no one will be detained or barred from games in Qatar because of clothing choices. But persistent rumors swirling around appropriate garb and modesty at soccer’s biggest tournament have also drawn attention to the country’s record on equality.
Rothna Begum, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, has studied Qatar’s male guardianship rules and women’s rights in the conservative country.
“There isn’t anyone is going to go around arresting you for this because there isn’t an official dress code,” Begum said. “There isn’t a compulsory dress code and you can’t get sanctioned for it. It’s just a social restriction, a social tradition.”
The local organizing committee includes a section on cultural awareness in its fan guide.
FILE- A Qatari woman walks in front of the city skyline in Doha, Qatar on May 14, 2010. After FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar, there were questions about what women would be allowed to wear. The local organizing guide says women must dress modestly with sleeves, long pants or long skirts. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
“People can generally wear their clothing of choice. Shoulders and knees should be covered when visiting public places like museums and other government buildings,” it said.
The phrase “public places” is up to interpretation.
The American Outlaws, the U.S. national team’s supporters’ group, produced its own fan guide.
“Fans can wear shorts and short sleeve shirts, and women are not required to cover their heads or faces. However, there are many buildings that require both men and women to cover their shoulders and knees before entering, including museums, shopping centers, and some restaurants,” the guide says. “We recommend that fans carry some pants and/or a top with sleeves if they plan on entering any buildings, as they may be asked to put them on.
“In the stadiums, men and women will be required to wear tops. People will not be permitted to go shirtless during matches or in public settings.”
The first World Cup in the Middle East comes at a time when there is international attention on the treatment of women in Iran. The nation, which sits across the Persian Gulf from Qatar, has been rocked by anti-hijab protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while being held by morality police for allegedly violating the country’s compulsory dress code for women. Activists have called for Iran to be expelled from the World Cup.
With Islam encouraging female modesty, most Qatari women wear headscarves and a loose cloak known as the abaya.
Begum, who wrote about Qatar and its treatment of women in a 2021 report for Human Rights Watch, said that while women have made progress in Qatar, they still face discrimination in almost every facet of their lives. Women must get permission from male guardians to marry, pursue higher education and work at certain jobs. Guardians can bar women under 25 from traveling abroad.
It’s a conservative culture that has little tolerance for dissent among its own citizens, she said.
“There are no independent women’s rights organizations and that’s partly because the authorities have laws that make it difficult for you to set up associations that are in any way deemed political. You are not allowed,” Begum said. “Women find it difficult to express or demand their rights offline or even online.”
That’s one of the reasons critics are questioning FIFA for awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Observers certainly noticed when retired American soccer star Carli Lloyd wore a long, high-collared dress with long sleeves for the World Cup draw earlier this year.
A letter recently circulated among teams from FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura asked nations not to bring political or ideological issues into the tournament.
“Please,” they wrote, “let’s now focus on the football.”
Alcohol is served only in hotel restaurants and bars that have licenses in Qatar. It is illegal to consume it elsewhere. Non-Muslim residents of Doha who have a liquor license, however, may drink at home. At the World Cup, fans will be allowed to buy Budweiser beer within stadium compounds — though not at concourse concession stands — before and after games. Fans can also drink in the evenings at a designated “fan zone” in downtown Doha. Generally in Qatar, public drunkenness is punishable by hefty fines and jailing. But the head of Qatar’s security operations has said that during the tournament, police will turn a blind eye to most offenses but potentially make arrests if someone gets into a drunken brawl or damages public property. The legal drinking age is 21, and bouncers at bars often ask for photo ID or passports upon entry.
Qatar is one of the world’s most restrictive nations when it comes to drugs, prohibiting cannabis and even over-the-counter medications like narcotics, sedatives and amphetamines. The sale, trafficking and possession of illegal drugs may lead to severe penalties, including long-term prison sentences followed by deportation and heavy fines. Drug smuggling charges can carry the death penalty. World Cup fans should be aware of these laws when arriving at Hamad International Airport, where authorities scan bags and passengers with new security technology and have arrested those carrying the smallest quantities of drugs.
Qatar considers the cohabitation of unmarried women and men a crime, using so-called indecency laws to punish extramarital sex. However, authorities say unmarried couples can share hotel rooms during the World Cup without issue. On the streets, public displays of affection are “frowned upon,” the government tourism website says. Holding hands won’t land you in jail, but visitors should avoid showing intimacy in public. Qatari law calls for a prison sentence of one to three years for adults convicted of consensual gay or lesbian sex. Crossdressing is also criminalized. World Cup organizers have told The Associated Press that anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, can come “without fear of any sort of repercussions.” But one official warned rainbow flags could be confiscated to protect fans from being attacked for promoting gay rights in a region where discrimination runs rampant.
Qatar’s government tourism website urges men and women to “show respect for local culture by avoiding excessively revealing clothing in public." It asks visitors to cover their shoulders and knees. Those in shorts and sleeveless tops may be turned away from government buildings and malls. Women visiting mosques in the city will receive scarves to cover their heads. It's a different story in hotels, where bikinis are common at hotel pools.
Flashing the middle finger or swearing, particularly when dealing with police or other authorities, can lead to arrest. Most criminal cases in Qatar that entrap unwary foreigners involve such offenses. Many Qatari women and men will not shake hands with the opposite sex; wait for a hand to be offered. Filming and photographing people without their consent, as well as taking pictures of sensitive military or religious sites, may result in prosecution. It’s also important to tread carefully when discussing religion and politics with locals. Insulting the royal family can land you in prison. Few Qataris are likely to welcome criticism of their governance system from a tourist. Spreading fake news and harming the country's interests is a serious and vaguely defined crime, so it's best to steer clear of social media commentary on Qatar.
Like his childhood idol Andrés Iniesta, Pedri is becoming a fixture in midfield for both Barcelona and Spain. While he does score goals occasionally, it’s Pedri’s passing and footwork with the ball that set him apart — just like Iniesta. “I always loved Iniesta and his way of playing soccer, because of how he was both on and off the field,” Pedri told The Associated Press in an interview last year. “He has been my reference and I have tried to model myself on him.” A member of Spain’s team that lost last year’s Olympic final to Brazil, Pedri will attempt to help his squad go one step further in Qatar.
While playing for Borussia Dortmund in October, Bellingham became the third teenager to score in four consecutive Champions League appearances after Erling Haaland (five appearances ending in November 2019) and Kylian Mbappé (four appearances ending in April 2017) — with one significant difference: Bellingham is a midfielder, not a striker like Haaland and Mbappé. That’s because Bellingham is able to use his 6-foot-1 (1.86-meter) frame to muscle off opposing players both while defending and attacking. A strong World Cup will only increase Bellingham’s price on the transfer market, as he’ll be expected to follow Robert Lewandowski’s and Haaland’s examples and leave Dortmund for one of Europe’s top clubs after this season.
Able to play any position in midfield, Musiala could be the key to Germany’s revival following a group-stage exit four years ago in Russia as defending champion. Born in Germany to a Nigerian father and a German mother but raised mostly in England — the team he played for at the under-21 level — Musiala said he “just listened to my feelings” when he decided to represent Germany at the senior level. Already known for his passing skills, Musiala is also showing off his scoring abilities this season with eight goals in 15 appearances in all competitions for Bayern Munich. His impact was witnessed when he was involved in three of the four goals in Bayern’s 4-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in September.
The son of former United States captain Claudio Reyna never saw his dad play for the national team. That’s because Gio was too young when Claudio made his last national team appearance in a 2006 World Cup loss to Ghana. His mother, Danielle Egan Reyna, also played for the United States briefly in 2003. An attacking midfielder or winger, the younger Reyna is back in form following an injury-plagued 2021-22 season. He curled a strike inside the far post for Borussia Dortmund in a win over Stuttgart in the German league last month. Reyna’s previous appearance against Stuttgart had ended when he sustained a muscle and tendon injury just after kickoff — ending last season prematurely in April.
Born in the United States to Ghanaian parents, Musah grew up mostly in Britain and played for England’s youth teams before ultimately deciding to represent his birth nation. A midfielder, Musah helped Spanish club Valencia to last season’s Copa del Rey final but was the only player to miss his spot kick in a penalty shootout, which led to Real Betis winning the trophy. Having recently returned from a groin injury, Musah is a first-choice midfielder for United States coach Gregg Berhalter, along with Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.
Slightly older players who appear ready for breakout performances include Alphonso Davies of Canada, Rafael Leão of Portugal, Boulaye Dia of Senegal, Kim Min-jae of South Korea and Mohammed Kudus of Ghana.
Born in a Ghana refugee camp to Liberian parents, Davies, who turns 22 on Nov. 2, is a regular at left back or on the wing for Bayern Munich. He made a big impact in helping Canada qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
The 23-year-old Leão was instrumental in helping AC Milan win the Serie A title last season and has been even better in the Italian league this campaign. With Rafa Silva having recently announced his retirement from Portugal’s national team, Leão will likely be Cristiano Ronaldo’s preferred strike partner in Qatar.
Among the early high scorers in Serie A with Salernitana this season (on loan from Villarreal), Dia worked as an electrician before his soccer career took off. He scored against Liverpool in the semifinals of last season’s Champions League.
Napoli fans protested when defensive stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly was sold to Chelsea and the lesser-known Kim was brought in as a replacement at center back. But Kim has been a big part of Napoli’s sensational start to the Italian league and was named Serie A player of the month for September.
An attacking midfielder, the 22-year-old Kudus had scored nine goals in 16 appearances for Ajax in all competitions by the end of October.
FILE - Former American soccer international Carli Lloyd, right, and Jermaine Jenas, English television presenter, pundit and retired professional soccer player assist with the 2022 soccer World Cup draw at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center in Doha, Qatar, Friday, April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File)