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Here are things World Cup fans are restricted from doing in Qatar

Croatia fans chant during the FIFA World Cup final match in Moscow, Russia in 2018.
Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Croatia fans chant during the FIFA World Cup final match in Moscow, Russia in 2018.

The World Cup is equal parts sporting event and international celebration — and for many fans, alcohol plays a large role. That's been true in stadiums, and in bars that open early or stay open late to show games.

But the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is unlike any before it. Just two days before the tournament's first match in the Muslim nation, officials made the surprise announcement that fans won't be allowed to drink beer at the country's eight World Cup stadiums — a reversal of a previously announced policy.

Alcohol is tightly regulated in Qatar, where customs agents are under orders to seize any booze visitors try to bring into the country.

It's one of many cultural clashes and potential legal issues that fans might encounter in Qatar, particularly if they're traveling from more open societies. Here's a quick guide:

This World Cup will be drier

For a sign of how dramatic the shift in Qatar is, consider that FIFA successfully pressured Brazil to change its federal laws to allow alcohol sales in its stadiums before it hosted the 2014 World Cup — overturning a ban that had been enacted due to violence at its stadiums.

"Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we're going to have them," then-FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said back in 2012. "Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that's something we won't negotiate."

Fans and beers have been a common sight at previous World Cup tournaments, like this 2014 scene from Brasilia, Brazil. But in Qatar, officials revoked a plan to allow regular spectators to drink beers on stadium grounds.
Buda Mendes / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Fans and beers have been a common sight at previous World Cup tournaments, like this 2014 scene from Brasilia, Brazil. But in Qatar, officials revoked a plan to allow regular spectators to drink beers on stadium grounds.

But that was then. In Qatar, regular fans won't have access to alcohol at matches. Only spectators in the stadiums' high-end luxury suites will have easy access to booze. Outside of the stadiums, fans can still drink at special World Cup gathering spaces, or at specially licensed restaurants, bars, and hotels around the country.

In general, the public consumption of alcohol is illegal in Qatar — an offense that can bring up to six months in prison and a fine of more than $800, according to the Library of Congress. Anyone smuggling alcohol into the country can face up to three years in prison, the agency said.

Fans face religious restrictions

Islam is the official religion of Qatar — and anyone found to be proselytizing for other religions or criticizing Islam "may be criminally prosecuted," the State Department said, in a factsheet about Qatar for World Cup visitors.

It's also not safe to assume you can practice your faith openly: "Qatar allows some non-Muslim religious practice in designated areas like Doha's Religious Complex, but all faiths are not accommodated equally," the U.S. agency said.

In addition to import restrictions on alcohol and pornography, "travelers cannot bring pork products" into the country, the State Department said in a video about Qatar's laws.

Public speech is also limited

Speech that's deemed critical of the Qatari government could trigger an arrest. Those laws apply both to spoken words and social media.

And while past World Cups have brought a heaping of argy-bargy — scenes of rival crowds yelling or even singing obscenities at one another — open conflicts can bring big problems in Qatar.

"For example, arguing with or insulting others in public could lead to arrest," the State Department advisory video stated.

Sex and other social issues

"Homosexuality is criminalized in Qatar," the State Department notes.

"Advocates say that LGBTQ people in Qatar are subjected to conversion therapy, harassment by authorities and imprisonment," as NPR's Becky Sullivan says in her rundown of controversies surrounding the host country.

Such reports have fueled outrage, and authorities will be under scrutiny for how they handle LGBTQ fans and symbols.

Visitors to Qatar can also face harsh punishments for "indecent acts and the act of sexual intercourse outside of marriage," the Library of Congress noted, citing Qatari law.

Recriminations range from a fine or six months' imprisonment for anyone found to have committed "immoral" actions or gestures in public to up to seven years in prison for someone having sex outside of marriage. Public debauchery can also carry a sentence up to three years in prison, according to the Library of Congress.

If a pregnant fan goes to Qatar for the World Cup, they should be prepared to show a marriage certificate if they need prenatal care there, the State Department said.

Republic of Ireland fans pose before a FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier in Cardiff, Wales. When fans head to Qatar, they'll need to keep their stomachs, chests and shoulders covered.
Harry Trump / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Republic of Ireland fans pose before a FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier in Cardiff, Wales. When fans head to Qatar, they'll need to keep their stomachs, chests and shoulders covered.

Fans will need to cover up, despite the heat

Qatar's oppressive heat forced the tournament to move from the summer to November and December — but fans who find it hot there should limit how much skin they show.

Dress codes in many public areas require that "both men and women cover shoulders, chests, stomachs, and knees, and that tight leggings be covered by a long shirt or dress," the State Department said.

As with alcohol, clothing standards often shift according to the degree a neighborhood or venue caters to foreigners.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.