Soccer-England fans enjoy their day in the sun at World Cup opener

DOHA (Reuters) – England fans at their first match mostly gave the Qatar World Cup a thumbs-up on Monday despite the ban on alcohol in the stadiums and continuing criticism from advocacy groups over human rights issues.

As supporters flocked in their tens of thousands to three matches across the country on the second day of the tournament, England were among the better supported nations.

“Well, we have only arrived today and so far so good, no issues,” England fan Darren Barrett told Reuters.

“Getting to the ground is easy enough. Every different fan from around the world is here. It is great to catch up with everybody and the sun is shining.”

Issues with the automated ticketing machines caused a delay for some fans getting into the Khalifa International Stadium, where the sale of alcoholic beer was banned after a late U-turn by organisers.

Gerard Milano from Nottingham, who has been travelling to World Cups for more than four decades, said it was not an issue for him.

“I have been to 11 tournaments and I have never had a drink inside the ground,” he said. “You can’t have a drink inside the ground in England, it is illegal.”

Some fans who had been in town a bit longer were less than impressed by the smallest nation ever to stage a World Cup, however.

“It has been boring,” said Ben Shaw. “It is just rubbish. Nothing to do apart from watching these games. Yesterday I was so bored. I was bored. It’s rubbish.”

England fan Samuel Mott, who lives in Qatar, said he thought the criticism of the awarding of the tournament to the gas-rich nation were a little unfair.

“They want to grow as a country, they want to develop then had the opportunity to host a World Cup they took it,” he said.

“They are not perfect but what do you expect from a country? They want to be ambitious. Are you saying a country like Qatar can’t be ambitious?”

While England fans were enjoying the 6-2 rout of Iran, some Wales supporters were in the Claw Bar near Doha’s main souk fuelling up for their country’s first World Cup match since 1958.

The beer and spirits were flowing seven hours before the kickoff of the second Group B match against the United States.

“It’s never too early,” said Wales fan Stephen, who declined to give his full name.

(Reporting by Iain Axon, Will Russell and Julien Pretot, writing by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Angus MacSwan)

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