Australian fan refused entry to ticketing centre due to pride flag

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DOHA: An Australian fan was sent away from the main ticketing centre at the World Cup following a bag inspection, when he was told he would be denied entry due to a pride flag.

The fan, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told Wide World of Sports that he had attempted to enter the ticketing building at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, but was turned away.

He said he had initially been determined to bring a rainbow version of the Australian flag to Qatar, but that the experience had put him off trying to take it anywhere else. 

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“They told me I couldn’t come in after looking through my bag – I haven’t tried it at a game or anything after that experience,” he said.

“I really regret coming – but I came for the football.” 

FIFA was contacted for comment. 

Sports and politics DO mix

Federal Sports Minister Anika Wells was in Doha visiting the Aspire Academy, where Australia are based, amidst other official duties – but stopped in to speak with reporters as well.

Whenever there’s a story regarding anti-racism, anti-homophobia or any other socially progressive cause, a relatively predictable response from detractors is that ‘sports and politics don’t mix’ – so Wide World of Sports asked the minister was she thought of that.

“In my experience as a suburban mum and now sports minister, compared to a politician, sport is every bit as political as politics,” she said.

“The people that try to keep politics out of sport are the ones that currently have the power, who seek to keep that power against others trying to then take their place and have a voice – which is why I’m so strong on athletes rights.”

The minister said she supported players having more power to speak up and use their platform for their beliefs. 

“To speak more broadly on where we are as a country at the moment, we are modernising to an athlete-led environment.”

Asian upsets continue

While Japan defeating Germany was a lovely feelgood moment for fans who love an underdog, you couldn’t help but feel a tinge of jealous from an Australian point of view.

Two heavy underdogs from the Asian Confederation pulled off stunning upsets in the space of a day, but sandwiched in between was Australia’s heavy loss to France.

You only have to look back to the qualifying campaign to see the differences – Australia struggled after a hot start and finished well behind both the Samurai Blue and the Green Falcons, who easily finished in the top two and qualified for the World Cup automatically.

Teething problems continue despite slick exterior

Ben Blumberg is at his second World Cup supporting the Socceroos – and is in the fan village in what he concedes is a “shipping container” but says it’s been mostly positive so far.

“The prospect of a World Cup in Qatar wasn’t attractive, but when they qualify you’ve got to do it,” he told Wide World of Sports.

“It’s good for what it is. In Russia everyone was at different hotels but this way, you can meet so many people from other counties – I’m staying with an Iranian guy and got invited in for tea this morning with some Iranians, I spoke to Japanese and Pakistani fans this morning.”

Of course, there are negative aspects – he notes a lack of fans of traditional European powerhouses making the journey, as well as some little things throughout the day.

“This country also just doesn’t have that much experience hosting events, is what I’ve seen so far,” he said.

Blumberg was one of many fans who was left in the lurch during the opening days of the tournament due to issues with the World Cup ticketing app. 

“I had a ticket transferred to me during the day and was refreshing the app all day, it wasn’t coming though, I ended up lining up at 6.30 for a 7pm kickoff at the ticket assistance window which was two guys trying to help about a hundred people – thankfully it worked out in the end but others haven’t been so lucky.”

Canadians make most of first game in 36 years

At their first World Cup game since 1986, a massive contingent of Canadian fans packed into the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, in pretty much the same area of the ground that Welsh fans were two nights ago.

The Saudi Arabians have certainly been the loudest group so far, but Canada’s supporters are firmly in the conversation for second place, bringing plenty of energy in their loss to Belgium – when they were awarded an early penalty the place was absolutely bouncing, and even when Alphonso Davies failed to convert, they kept it up the rest of the way. 

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