BERLIN (AP) — FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar in winter means thousands of German soccer supporters will have to do without their traditional huge “fan mile” viewing party at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
Berlin’s local environment authority told news agency DPA on Saturday that it was unlikely to approve the special exemptions needed to hold such an event, while the chief executive of the organizing company said it wasn’t feasible this year.
Willy Kausch, the CEO of the K.I.T. Group, said it was difficult to organize the fan mile during the Christmas market season and that uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic added to the obstacles.
“We decided not to do it,” Kausch said.
The fan mile had become a key part of German fans’ World Cup experience — a mile-long stretch of food and drink vendors with large screens showing games — attracting hundreds of thousands of supporters during previous World Cup tournaments.
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Around 9 million supporters took part in the fan mile when Germany hosted the tournament in 2006. When Germany won the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, Joachim Löw’s team presented the trophy to supporters at the fan mile in front of Brandenburg Gate. It last hosted the fan mile in 2018, when the mood was a bit more subdued as Germany flopped as defending champion.
FIFA decided in 2015 to move the World Cup — traditionally held in summer — to winter due to the searing heat in Qatar, which was awarded the tournament in 2010 amid allegations of corruption. U.S. prosecutors said bribes were paid to FIFA executive committee members to gain their votes for Qatar.
German soccer federation president Theo Zwanziger strongly criticized the decision at the time and was later subject to a Qatar-funded multiyear covert influence operation run by former CIA operatives to try and change his mind. It failed.
Ciaran Fahey, sports writer, authored this story for The Associated Press.