American Fans Give Up Thanksgiving to Travel to World Cup – NBC New York

Hector Garcia’s family found it difficult to understand his decision to travel to this year’s World Cup and leave the annual gathering with 30 family and friends.

“This would have been my 40th year of cooking turkey and I gave it up to be here. It was difficult,” he said.

Garcia, 59, of Glendale Heights, Illinois, addressed a gathering of American fans Sunday night wearing an Uncle Sam suit. He said he had tickets for 28 of the 64 matches in his fifth World Cup after 1994, 2002, 2006 and 2018.

Moving the tournament from its usual June/July time slot to November/December likely caused some American fans to skip the trip to Qatar. Others, who used to take their summer vacation as a football trip, were unable to hit the track because school was in session.

The US Soccer Federation said it had sold about 3,300 tickets for the Americans’ opener 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, conditional tickets were sold for the knockout stages: approximately 2,100 for the round of 16, 1,100 each for the quarter-finals and semi-finals, 800 for the third-place match and 1,500 for the final on 18 December.

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FIFA did not specify how many tickets it sold directly in the United States, only that American residents 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 residents of the United States, second only to the host nation. After the United States failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, FIFA said after the group stage that US residents bought about 97,000 tickets on its website.

“I think the reason it’s different is mainly because of the cost factors associated with coming to Qatar,” said Donald Wein II, a board member of the American Outlaws supporters group. “It has put off a lot of people who would normally go to the World Cup, whether it’s June or November.”

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The American outlaws refused to accept paid travel and accommodation from the Qatari organizers. It will also not host events, as it did in Brazil, and will instead aim for gatherings at next year’s Women’s World Cup.

“From the outset, we have expressed our disappointment with the selection of Qatar as the host country for the World Cup, from human rights violations, working conditions, to LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights,” the Outlaws said in a statement. “The organizers of this World Cup have made it difficult for groups like AO to help fans get to the World Cup, feel safe and welcome, or organize events on their terms. As such, the organization is not hosting stand-alone events in Qatar, as we hope to next year in New Zealand and Australia.”

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The U.S. Soccer Federation hosts fan gatherings at the Budweiser Club adjacent to a Doha hotel on the eve of all U.S. games. While Qatar has banned alcohol from stadiums, it was available at the party — for 115 Qatari riyals, or about $32, a drink.

“I plan to go to every World Cup for the rest of my life. I’m attracted,” said Rodney Maraiag, 41, of Inglewood, California. “I love sports. “I like to travel.”

Kanika Perry-Acosta, mother of American midfielder Kellyn Acosta, was among the fans. Fresh off a flight from Houston to Seattle and on to Qatar, she wore a new T-shirt delivered to USSF families.

“He’s living his dream,” she said of her son. “It’s amazing.”

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