On Twitter the other day one of those 1970s nostalgia sites put up the bar tariff from a discotheque of the period. A pint of lager cost 20p, the same as a snowball. Whisky, vodka and rum were priced at 18p while Babycham and Cherry B were cheapest on the list at 15p. Six of either and you’d have enough change from a pound for the bus fare home. Top night!
Compare that with prices in Qatar right now. Lager will set you back £11 and if you fancy a glass of white wine, non-vintage, then you can expect to pay 25 quid. I’ve heard of minimum pricing but that’s ridiculous. Now I know what you’re thinking: Qatar, host nation for the next World Cup, let’s give that one a miss. It would extend Scotland’s non-participation in the finals to 24 years but really this will be a weird, winter-set, pretendy tournament, won’t it? Suffice to say, not a classic.
Well, you don’t know that for sure. And this news just in: the prices are expected to be reduced for 2022. This is a big gesture by the Qataris. “Alcohol is not part of our culture,” the chief executive of the World Cup organising committee stated the other day. The prices are exorbitant because Qatar is a Muslim country and there’s a sin tax. Nevertheless they want to put on a fantastic show. They’re willing to sup with the devil by using not so much a long spoon as a “designated location”.
Bevvying will happen at various approved venues and I suppose they’ll be a bit like the speakeasies which sprouted up in America during Prohibition.
They’ll have official blessing but will probably be kept out of sight of significant buildings and, you’d imagine, mosques.
In the speakeasies featured in old Warner Bros gangster films Jimmy Cagney would burst into the illegal drinking-den, open up his violin case and with his tommy-gun turn that dirty rat Humphrey Bogart into a sieve, completely ruining a smart double-breasted suit and fedora.
It is not known if Qatar would like the World Cup fans to come dressed as 1920s mobsters but probably this would be preferable to T-shirts and shorts which are frowned upon. This won’t go down well with the Ingerland hordes who like to display the Cross of St George on their backsides, the vertical on the flag lined up with the builder’s crack, along with calf tattoos of dragons being slain, Messerschmitts being strafed and gentle, bucolic scenes which could have been painted by Constable.
Would the kilt be more acceptable? This is unclear although worryingly I read that the Qatar security team have been “working closely with authorities in England, and other countries that have traditionally qualified for the World Cup, to help them best deal with fans”. In recent times Scotland have traditionally flunked qualification so I don’t suppose we’ve been part of these discussions.
Most disappointing and, I have to say, not particularly inclusive. Qatar, in an attempt to quell fears about intolerance, given that homosexuality is illegal there, have offered assurances that LGBT fans will be welcome at the tournament. That’s encouraging and as it should be, but what about countries where the acronym can also mean Lose Gubbed Beaten Thrashed – don’t we count?
Here, too, the Qataris are having to swallow hard and acknowledge that in other lands they do things differently. “Public displays of affection are frowned upon – that’s part of our culture and across the board,” they point out. So what about players kissing in the act of celebrating? Would it be acceptable for, say, Oli McBurnie, pictured inset, to plant a smacker on Grant Hanley as grateful thanks for the latter’s geometrical wonder of a through ball, leaving the entire Brazilian defence for dead and setting up the winning goal? Actually I’m not entirely sure I’d want to see that either…
Boozing and snogging are tough issues with which to grapple for a country like Qatar but by all accounts they’ve got the extreme heat under control.
Temperatures last week hit 100F with 80 per cent humidity but the Al Janoub Stadium – one of eight hosting games in three years’ time although when I checked no one could confirm that Scotland vs Brazil will be one of them – is the world’s first purpose-built, air-conditioned football ground.
Turrets at the side of the pitch and grills under each seat blast out cold air. Kilt-wearers, I’m sure, would enjoy the upward draught, with the mechanical engineer known locally as Dr Cool promising the air will “hug you gently and engulf you … make a bubble!”
Will the Tartan Army get the chance to watch football in this unique environment, rather as if their own personal handmaidens were wafting them with palms? That will depend on Oli & Co. One million visitors are expected during the tournament which will put heavy pressure on the available accommodation so Qatar aims to set up campsites in the desert. Then there’s the cruise ship option. Personally I would hate that. There are cruises for prog-rock fans now and much as I love the music I wouldn’t venture into a topographic ocean with a bunch of berks who’ve never moved on from the 1970s. A boatful of football fans would be even worse, although I guess if there were incidents which offended the locals – the singing of “We’ll be coming down the road” ad nauseam for example – the anchor could be lifted and the ringleaders keelhauled.
So do we want to be at this World Cup? Beggars – and this is what we are now – can’t be choosers. If we fail to qualify again, the sense of isolation and the feeling that everyone is having a brilliant time at a party to which we’ve been NFI will be even greater, for this tournament will take place bang in the middle of the domestic season.
If we missed out, what would we do? Would we attempt to carry on, putting Hamilton Accies vs Ross County up against France vs Argentina? If that were to happen I think I’d have to get blootered on Babychams. The 99 Club in Barrow-in-Furness is the place, apparently, and you’re very welcome to join me.