The most controversial World Cup of all time begins in Qatar. The most recent example: Only recently has the host switched to banning alcohol in stadiums. Switzerland is represented in the small desert country by ambassador Edgar Dörig. In an interview, he explains what Swiss fans can expect there and how the embassy has prepared for the tournament.
Swiss Ambassador to Qatar
In the position since 2018. Before his commitment in Qatar, Dörig was head of mission in Chile and Japan, among other places.
SRF News: Is Qatar ready for this World Cup?
Edgar Dörig: Regarding the infrastructure: sure. The stadiums, but also the entire organization, are state-of-the-art. It will be a challenge to smuggle several hundred thousand people into Doha. But one is prepared to channel these streams of people.
Shortly before the World Cup, it was decided that beer would not be sold to fans in stadiums after all. A very last minute decision.
There will still be beer. In addition to certain fan zones, it will also be possible to consume alcohol in hotels. It’s been like that forever. But one thing is clear: here there will be no scenes like in the west, with fans drinking in public.
How do you assess this sudden change of opinion?
In fact, the decision on the beer came very late. They certainly wanted to accommodate conservative circles in their own country and at the same time show the world: we have our own rules here, and we are not ready for a complete opening.
We have made it clear to the Qataris that we expect them to respect basic human rights.
Qatar is a very conservative country, which has also never hosted such a big event, with a large number of Western fans who are very clear about how they want to celebrate here. Consequently, this World Cup is a tightrope walk for the Qatari government. The changes in the last few days and weeks reflect that.
On the one hand, Qatar says: All visitors are welcome. On the other hand, homosexuality is considered prohibited.
This issue is also a challenge for the ruling powers. Qatar sees itself as an open country, but you are also expected to be considerate of your own culture. We have always made it clear to the Qataris that we expect them to respect basic human rights and that there will be a sense of proportion.
How many Swiss fans do you expect?
According to FIFA, more than 10,000 tickets were sold in Switzerland. We expect around 5,000 Swiss fans. That means between 1,500 and 2,000 fans for each of the three group stage matches. Thus we will see rojiblancos fans in the respective stadiums with a capacity of around 40,000; but they will not constitute the majority of viewers.
How does the embassy ensure the safety of Swiss visitors on site?
The host country is primarily responsible for security. We also appeal to the personal responsibility of visitors. However, on the embassy side, we are well prepared to support the Swiss if necessary. Among other things, a Fedpol delegation, consisting of six police officers from the cantons/cities and Fedpol, will be on site. They will be present at the stadiums, in close collaboration with the Qatari authorities. With this we want to make sure that we have the most up-to-date information, but also that it is possible to take care of the Swiss fans on the spot. From an intercultural perspective, it is important to be present with your own representatives in difficult situations.
We have also strengthened the consular protection team for the duration of the World Cup. This is where Swiss fans can go if they have a problem, for example if they have lost their passport or for whatever reason they are dealing with the police.
The interview was conducted by Anita Bünter and Jonas Bischoff.