US fans skip Thanksgiving to travel to World Cup

US fans are ditching Thanksgiving to go to the World Cup originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Hector Garcia’s family have struggled to come to terms with their decision to go to this year’s World Cup and abandon their annual gathering of 30 family and friends.

“It would have been my 40th year cooking turkey and I gave that up to be here. It was tough,” he said. “They were like, are you going to miss Thanksgiving? I’m like, well, yeah, it’s the World Cup. It’s not my fault that they kept it in the fall, winter.

Garcia, a 59-year-old from Glendale Heights, Illinois, spoke at a gathering of American fans on Sunday night wearing an Uncle Sam costume. He said he had tickets to 28 of the 64 matches of his fifth World Cup after 1994, 2002, 2006 and 2018.

The tournament’s move from its usual June/July slot to November/December likely caused some American fans to skip the trip to Qatar. Others used to making summer vacation a football trip were unable to make the trip because school is in session.

The US Soccer Federation said it sold around 3,300 tickets for the Americans’ opener against Wales on Monday, 3,800 for Friday’s game against England and 3,100 for the group stage final November 29 against Iran. In addition, conditional tickets were sold for the knockout stage: approximately 2,100 for the round of 16, 1,100 each for a quarter-final and a semi-final, 800 for the third-place match and 1,500 for the final on December 18.

FIFA did not specify the number of tickets sold directly to the United States, only that American residents purchased the third highest number of tickets behind Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

For the 2014 tournament in Brazil, FIFA said more than 200,000 tickets were purchased by US residents, second only to the host. After the United States failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, FIFA said after the group stage that US residents purchased around 97,000 tickets on its website.

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

The American outlaws refused to accept the travel and accommodation expenses paid by the Qatari organizers. It also won’t be hosting events, like it did in Brazil, and will instead be aiming for rallies at next year’s Women’s World Cup.

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

The US Soccer Federation holds fan gatherings at a “Budweiser Club” adjacent to a hotel in Doha on the eve of all US games. While Qatar banned alcohol in stadiums, it was available at the party – for 115 Qatari riyals a drink, or around $32.

“I plan on going to every World Cup for the rest of my life. I’m hooked,” said Rodney Marayag, a 41-year-old from Inglewood, California. “I love the sport. travel.”

Among the fans was Kanikah Perry-Acosta, mother of American midfielder Kellyn Acosta. Fresh off a flight from Houston to Seattle and Qatar, she wore a new T-shirt provided to families by the USSF.

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