Well folks, after a quick trip to Iraq last spring, I'm heading back to the middle east for the World Cup on Monday. This will be my first World Cup and according to literally every piece of media I've seen, could very well be the worst.
However, if it ends up being the Fyre Fest of sports, Barstool should have some boots on the ground, and as their foreign correspondent, that duty falls on me (actually I just wanted to go as I assumed it would be a layup for the sales team to get sponsored but I guess the reports of human rights abuse scared them off as with one week to go, I am sponsorless. Hank assured me from the start he wanted me there regardless though so the trip is locked in).
All the drama surrounding this World Cup has already been covered on this website profusely, which you can check out here. So instead of rehashing all of that in this blog, I'm just gonna focus on my plans, concerns, and final thoughts before I take off.
The airbnb I booked unfortunately fell through
So Michael Angelo and I now have a fan village cabin (read: shipping container) booked for 9 nights at $207 a night. When I originally booked our accommodation it was the only option available for under $800 a night so I pulled the trigger. See below:
Not luxurious by any means but definitely a step up from the refugee camp tents some fans are staying in.
PFT is flying in for the USA/England game, so while he's in town I also booked a 2 bedroom apartment.
Let's just hope it's actually been built by now as these could very well be stock photos.
The booze situation in Qatar isn't ideal but the people who think PFT and I are gonna get Griner'ed for drinking in Qatar are just fear mongering.
While highly regulated, alcohol is not illegal in Qatar. Look at this "booze map" of Doha listing all the bars (mostly in hotels) where one could grab a drink even before the World Cup.
Now drinking or being drunk in public IS ILLEGAL in Qatar but for the World Cup the Qatari government at least claims they are relaxing those laws. Here are the additional venues I know of where fans will be able to purchase a beer during the tournament.
- At the stadiums 3 hours before and after matches (although Fifa was recently told by the Qatari royal family that they must hide the Budweiser tents around the stadium. Shocked Fifa didn't consider how badly they'd be fucking over their sponsors when they accepted those bribes.)
- At FIFA Fan Festivals after 6:30 PM. I'm predicting this is gonna be a disaster. The FIFA Fan Festival at Al Bidda Park can accommodate 40,000 people.
And it's only gonna have ONE beer tent…
Waiting in hour long lines to buy a 12 pound ($14 dollar) pint sounds hellish. As of yesterday I've decided to go sober until Qatar to lower my tolerance but pretty sure that's too little too late.
- The Arcadia Music Festival will be serving beer 10AM to 5AM. Wow! That's 19 hours of the day.
Only issue is every time I go there because I'm craving some suds before 6:30PM I'll have to shell out $104 for a ticket and endure hours of shitty EDM music without any molly to enhance the experience (don't expect a repeat of PFT and I at HK 7s. We'd definitely get griner'ed for that). That being said I'll definitely still be going for the occasional afternoon pop. Don't be surprised if there's a fire breathing spider in the background of half my World Cup coverage.
- There is one state controlled liquor store in Qatar where only residents of the country with possession of an alcohol license are allowed to shop. Luckily I knew someone who fits that description but won't reveal whether or not they'll be procuring me some sauce as I'm not a narc.
I'll be attending matches 4 of the 9 days I'm in Qatar. I have tickets to all USA group matches (USA v Wales, USA v Engand, USA v Iran) and a ticket to Serbia vs Cameroon (I applied for one random match in case my ticket application to the US games wasn't successful.) But how will I spend the other 5 days I'm in Qatar you ask? Well at least on paper, there's a lot to do.
I just purchased tickets for PFT and I to see French Montana at the QetaiFAN beach festival November 24th.
Partying on a beach with French Montana sounds fun in theory but not sure if booze will be available which I'm sure you can tell by now, plays a significant factor in how much fun I have. PFT and French have a mutual friend so I'm just holding out hope he allows us to be honorary "Circo Boys" for the day.
- Hippo Mode
Qatar has over 350 miles of coastline so if everything else at this World Cup goes to shit, at least I can always go hippo mode.
This beach festival above looks like the ideal place to post up for the day but it's also a computer rendering so I'll keep my expectations in check. Apparently beaches will also be the only place I can take my shirt off without getting fined
- Party with Mexicans
In true Patriotic fashion, PFT and I will be pregaming the USA/England game slugging cervesas and crushing tacos at a Mexican fiesta being held at a huge outdoor bar in Doha called The Backyard. VIVA!
- Looking at buildings
Say what you want about Qatar but no-one can deny it's got some impressive architecture. Unfortunately no-one can deny some of that architecture was built on the backs of forced migrant labors either but what am I gonna do, not look at it? That won't solve anything. Same way USMNT making their logo rainbow colors unfortunately isn't gonna convince Qatar to legalize homosexuality.
If everyone collectively agrees to not watch this World Cup that would definitely send a strong message to the Qatari government but matches in Qatar have a better chance of getting rained out. I'd bet 100 Qatari Riyals even the most outraged soccer fans online will be tuning in. The NFL has had its fair share of controversy over the years, viewership has only grown.
I learned first hand how much Persian Gulf countries love their Falcons on a flight to Dubai a few years go
and Qatar is no different.
According to many of you attending this world cup makes me complicit in human rights abuses but there's no backing out now so I might as well pick up Falconry while I'm there (this logic doesn't make much sense but give me a break I'm grasping at straws here).
1. Thank god I'm not going to these games as a Big J but as a fan who just happens to be making some vlogs as it seems like freedom of the press is valued as much as same sex relationships in Qatar. Case in point:
I won't be going to Qatar with an agenda to make the country look bad, just gonna report on my personal experiences. But I'm starting to worry even doing that could get me in some trouble. If what happened to this accredited Danish journalist is any indication, my world cup coverage could end up being more blogs than vlogs.
2. When I go abroad, I'm used to filming a ton, then spending a month or two editing a full series from the footage. However seeing World Cup content is only relevant during the World Cup, we're gonna be editing and releasing videos as soon as we film them which isn't gonna be easy when my office is a shipping container:
3. Qatar has a lot of rules. E-Cigs are illegal (which i'm hopelessly addicted to ever since Billy Football offered me a JUUL as a healthier alternative to hoons). It's not appropriate to wear shorts in some parts of the city. I assume cross dressing is illegal so PFT and I are gonna have to nix dressing up as the queen at the USA/England match and find some new costumes. It's hard to know what could get you in trouble over there but at least I can take solace in the fact that if I accidentally offend someone, there's gonna be an English fan 10 feet away doing something 10X more offensive.
4. It's gonna be hot as balls.
I've traveled all over the world and spent time in many countries with notoriously corrupt and authoritarian governments. What I've found is that a country's government is almost never a reflection of its people. I'm sure the vast majority of Qatari's I meet will be extremely hospitable and friendly. They obviously had nothing to do with any corrupt backroom deals that occurred between Fifa and the Qatari government and are probably just excited to be hosting so many people from around the world.
Also, the media coverage of this world cup has been so insanely negative that I'm not sure it's even possible for the tournament to be as bad as the press says it will be. That being said I'm still going with extremely low expectations. If they're exceeded, great, if not, it will probably make for even better content. One man's misery is another man's entertainment.
What I'm looking forward to the most tho, and why I wanted to attend a World Cup in the first place, is being able to interact with fans from all over the world. Covid put the kaboosh on me covering the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Beijing Winter Olympics, and it's only events like these where you can be doing man on the street and talk to 8 different nationalities in the span of 10 minutes. Should make for some entertaining videos.
Let me end this blog with the official slogan of the Qatar World Cup (no one knows what it means, but it sure is provocative)
NOW IS ALL