The first World Cup in the Middle East finally got underway Sunday night, with a flashy opening ceremony and a match between Qatar and Ecuador played in a stadium with no beer for sale.
The beer ban, imposed two days before the tournament’s start, was the latest contentious snafu for a global event already under fire for Qatar’s human rights record and the emirates’ push to prepare the country for the shortest World Cup in history.
As Qatar lost its opening match 2-0 to Ecuador, the fan zone in central Doha devolved into a chaotic scene as tens of thousands of fans pushed against police lines to gain access to the venue.
Fans were attempting to gain access to the enclosed area that housed large screens for viewing matches and purchasing beer.
Qatar is home to 3 million people, the majority of whom are migrant workers, and has spent more than $200 billion on infrastructure improvements across the energy-rich country the size of Connecticut or Jamaica.
Seven new purpose-built venues have been added, including the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium, which hosted the opening ceremony and first match on Sunday.
Qatar became the first host country in World Cup history to lose its first game.
Qatar is hosting the World Cup for the first time, but it couldn’t stop Ecuador captain Enner Valencia, who scored both goals in the first half.
Two of the world’s best players were ruled out of the tournament before it even started due to injuries.
Karim Benzema, France’s Ballon d’Or winner, is out after injuring his left thigh during training on Saturday. Sadio Mane of Senegal, who finished second to Benzema in the world player of the year voting, is out with a leg injury sustained while playing for Bayern Munich last week.
Previously, France midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, as well as Germany striker Timo Werner, were ruled out. With lingering injuries, Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku and South Korean captain Son Heung-min arrived in Qatar.