Hector Garcia’s family have struggled to understand his decision to go to this year’s World Cup and skip his annual gathering of 30 family and friends.
“This would have been my 40th year of cooking turkey and I gave up on being here. It was hard,” he said. “They were like: Are you going to miss Thanksgiving? I feel like, yeah, it’s the World Cup. It’s not my fault that they spent it in the fall, in the winter.”
Garcia, 59, of Glendale Heights, Illinois, addressed an American fan gathering Sunday night dressed in an Uncle Sam costume. He said that he has tickets for 28 of the 64 matches he played in the fifth World Cup after 1994, 2002, 2006 and 2018.
Moving the tournament from the usual June/July to November/December caused some American fans to avoid visiting Qatar. Others used their summer vacation to turn it into a soccer trip because school was in session and they couldn’t go on a field trip.
The U.S. Soccer Federation said it sold about 3,300 tickets for the Americans’ first game against Wales on Monday, 3,800 for Friday’s game against England and 3,100 for the Nov. 29 group stage final against Iran. In addition, conventional tickets were sold for the playoffs: about 2,100 for the round of 16 and semi-final, 1,100 each for the quarter-final and semi-final, 800 for the third-place match and 1,500 for the final on December 18.
FIFA did not disclose how many tickets it sold directly to the United States, but American residents alone bought the third most tickets, behind Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
For the 2014 tournament in Brazil, FIFA said more than 200,000 tickets were purchased by US residents, after the host. After the USA failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, FIFA said that US residents bought about 97,000 tickets on its website after the group stage.
“I think the reason it’s different is mainly because of the cost factors of going to Qatar,” said Donald Wine II, a board member of the American Outlaws advocacy group. “It’s excluded a lot of people who would normally go to the World Cup, whether it’s June or November.”
American Outlaws refused to accept paid travel and accommodations from Qatar organizers. It will also not host events like it did in Brazil and will instead target the build-up to next year’s Women’s World Cup.
“From the beginning, we have expressed our disappointment with the selection of Qatar as the host country for the World Cup, human rights violations, labor conditions, LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights,” the Outlaws said in a statement. “The organizers of this World Cup have made it very difficult for groups like AO to help fans get to the World Cup, feel safe and welcome, or host events on their own terms. So the organization is not hosting single events in Qatar, as we hope to do in New Zealand and Australia next year.”
The US Soccer Federation holds fan meetings at the Budweiser Club adjacent to the Doha Hotel on the eve of all American games. Although Qatar bans alcohol in stadiums, it was available at the party — 115 Qatari riyals, or about $32, per drink.
“I plan on going to every World Cup for the rest of my life. I’m committed,” said Rodney Marayak, 41, of Inglewood, California. “I love sports. I love to travel.”
Kanikah Perry-Acosta, mother of American midfielder Kellyn Acosta, was among the fans. While flying from Houston to Seattle and on to Qatar, he wore a new shirt given to families by the USSF.
She said of her son: “He’s living his dream. It’s amazing.”