VAR, stadium alcohol ban, BBC and ITV snub ceremony: 2022 World Cup day one talking points

Fan zone overwhelmed at Al Bidda Park in Doha on Sunday an hour before the opening World Cup match between hosts Qatar and Ecuador

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The 2022 Fifa World Cup kicked off on Sunday with hosts Qatar going down 2-0 to Ecuador in their opening Group A match.

Enner Valencia scored both Ecuador goals but he arguably should have gone into the half-time interval celebrating a hat-trick.

We take a look at the big talking points from Day One of the World Cup.

VAR already a cause for concern

Valencia has the distinction of scoring the first goals of Qatar 2022 – a 16th-minute penalty and a header just before the half-hour – but he had the ball in the back of the net even earlier but his third-minute goal was ruled out for a marginal offside.

The Fenerbahce striker headed the ball into the net from close range after Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb made a hash of an attempted clearance in the buildup.

However, the goal was eventually ruled out by referee Daniel Orsato following a VAR review.

Although Al Sheeb initially appeared to punch the ball, Felix Torres’ ws judged to have headed the ball when teammate Michael Estrada’s foot was closer to goal than both the keeper and Qatari player Abdelkarim Hasan Fadlalla.

Though the razor-thin decision was technically correct, it left thousands in the crowd and millions watching on TV perplexed and with a sense of impending doom of what is to follow for the rest of the tournament.

A giant screen displays the VAR offside goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group A match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium. AFP

Overcrowding at fan park

Chaotic scenes broke out inside and outside the fan festival at Al Bidda Park in Doha on Sunday an hour before the kick off of the opening World Cup match between hosts Qatar and Ecuador after fans flooded the precinct.

The venue has a capacity of 40,000 but at least double that number of people tried to make their way in, Reuters reported.

Many were let into a holding area between the main festival park and the perimeter entrance.

Police realised the problem and had to shepherd irate supporters back out of the venue.

The police took about 45 minutes to clear the excess fans from the area.

Tournament organisers the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy have yet to comment.

While there was chaos in the holding area, the scene inside the park seemed pleasant.

"I think Qatar will be a great host. Now that the games are starting, the vibe is building," Brazil fan Raphael de Jesus said.

"This is my third World Cup after 2014 and 2018, and so far everything has been very well organised."

Police officers stand guard to prevent members of the public entering the overcrowded Fifa Fan Festival at Al Bidda park in Doha. AFP

Alcohol stadium ban - is it really that bad?

Organisers' decision to ban alcohol in or around stadiums in Doha hosting World Cup matches caused outrage among western media outlets – particularly in the UK – though fans on the ground seemed more understanding.

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, told PA news agency while visiting Doha's Corniche: “I think you should make the most of what is here, the fans are here for football, not for drink.

“I am sure that there will be people here who will be very keen to make sure they have the best possible time.”

During his speech on Friday, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said brushed off concerns over the ban of alcohol in stadiums, joking “I think if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive."

While there is much to pick over on the rest of his speech, Infantino is right that the cancellation of beer sales within the stadium complex is not such a huge issue in itself. Drinking beer is not a human right.

The sale of alcohol is strictly controlled in Qatar where, as in much of the region, drinking alcohol is not part of the way of life.

Though some fans are bound to feel disappointed, the ban is not blanket with reports of packed bars and fan parks across Doha with patrons and attendees enjoying Sunday's opening match.

Football fans enjoy a beverage at the Fifa Fan Festival at Al Bidda park in Doha. AFP

BBC and ITV opening ceremony snub draws ire

While many got to enjoy the spectacular opening ceremony of the 2022 World Cup on Sunday, UK television viewers were denied the chance following a decision by the BBC and ITV to snub the occasion.

The ceremony featured actor Morgan Freeman, Jungkook from K-Pop band BTS and hundreds of local and international performers as organisers put on a visual spectacle highlighting the country's history and culture for the world to see.

The BBC ignored the entire event in favour of a broadcast criticising the treatment of migrant workers, highlighting corruption allegations at Fifa and discussing the ban on homosexuality in Qatar.

Neither broadcaster has explained its decision, though the BBC did make the ceremony available to its online viewers.

Their decision not to air the ceremony drew fierce criticism from different sides, with the networks accused of being "disrespectful" towards hosts Qatar and showing "neo-colonialism" attitudes.

"Outrageously disrespectful to Qatar that the BBC didn't broadcast the World Cup opening ceremony, and instead put out more virtue-signalling guff about how awful it is," television host Piers Morgan tweeted. "If they're that appalled, they should bring home their vast army of employees & spare us this absurd hypocrisy."

Another user, Majid Freeman, tweeted: "The #FIFAWorldCup ceremony started with beautiful recitation of the Quran. Instead of showing the ceremony, @BBCSport or @itvfootball hypocritically sat IN QATAR virtue signalling & talking about how bad Qatar is. Why not boycott it instead of taking money to cover #Qatar2022?

Updated: November 21, 2022, 8:39 AM
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