It has been a common sight at FIFA World Cup games: huge lines of fans buying beer inside stadiums before returning home with stacks of empty souvenir cups in their hands.
A top FIFA official expressed concern at the amount of drinking during the month-long tournament, seemingly ignoring that it was soccer’s world governing body that forced Brazil to change its laws to allow beer sales at stadiums.
Despite the concerns, beer is expected to continue to flow unimpeded during the two semi-final games, Brazil-Germany yesterday and Argentina-Netherlands today.
Brasilia banned alcohol at games in 2003 to curb fan violence, but had to pass a special law authorizing booze at the World Cup as part of its agreement to host the tournament.
In the corridors of the 12 World Cup arenas, fans line up to buy US-made Budweiser or the local Brahma brand, both owned by Belgian-Brazilian giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, a major sponsor of the event.
Many fans have streamed out of stadiums with handfuls of the 473 milliliter commemorative cups in their hands, having paid 13 reals (US$6) for a Budweiser, or 10 reals for a Brahma, and the cups have become hot items for sale online.
As supporters pour beer into their mouths — and revenue into Anheuser-Busch’s pockets — there have been reports of heated arguments, including a brawl, during two games at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana involving supporters who had apparently consumed alcohol.
At the Uruguay-Colombia last-16 game on June 28, several Brazilian fans traded blows with Uruguay supporters in the stadium’s corridor.
The fight began after an apparently inebriated Brazilian man shouted in an Uruguayan woman’s the face, mocking her team’s loss, which made her drop her beer, prompting a countryman to come to her defense.
After the France’s quarter-final against Germany on Friday, security guards had to get between two men wearing jerseys of cross-town rivals Corinthians and Sao Paulo FC in the corridor of the Maracana.
The man in the Corinthians shirt was holding about eight empty cups in one hand and shouted “Come here” at the other, but guards were able to keep them separated.
During the game, security guards had to take positions between fans who were screaming at each other.
Some Brazilians are glad they can drink during World Cup games, but back the prohibition during domestic league games, saying that local fans can get violent.
“People don’t know how to drink with moderation,” said Carlos Franca, a 48-year-old Brazilian.
Diogo Albuquerque, a 33-year-old engineer bedecked in Brazil’s colors, said the difference with domestic matches is that “there’s a lot of security” at World Cup games.
FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke last week said he was “struck and worried by the level of drunkenness of many supporters who do not behave well.”
He said consumption controls may be imposed, but no such measures seem to have been ordered.
Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman Daiana Rodriguez told reporters that beer would continue to be sold normally because FIFA has not required controls.
“This [control] would depend on FIFA,” she said, adding that the brewer “will continue selling beer until the last game.”
Another spokeswoman said the beer maker provided “responsible server training” for stadium staff.
The company could not provide World Cup sales figures, but the cups have become hot collector items on online markets.