It is one of the largest spaces dedicated to all of the catering industry in Saint-Gilles. Even the biggest. Enough to accommodate several coaches of fans. Especially since the terrace is as wide as a football field. But Maison du People will not be broadcasting the World Cup on the famous forecourt. Thomas Coke, one of the patrons of the Saint-Giloise Institute, explained why his bar will boycott the Qatari meeting this winter, which is scheduled for November 20 to December 18.
Thomas Cock, we imagine the arguments for not attaching your screen to Qatari soil are clear…
I don’t want to rank factors on a scale of horror. First, we will play football on bones, in cemeteries: lives spent to build stadiums, in a country that tramples the rights of women, men, LGBTQIA+. Then there’s the idea of a World Cup in desert winters, where stadiums need to be cooled. In a time of ecocide, a time when the people of Brussels don’t know how to pay the energy crisis bill, it’s indecent. Finally, there are corruption scandals surrounding FIFA, which we know is not a philanthropic enterprise.
Is the conclusion so inevitable for a catering operator like you?
The combination of these circumstances means that we can no longer see ourselves in the mirror when matches are broadcast. We weren’t going to party around this football: we don’t find ourselves there.
You can be blamed for advertising it…
We were hesitant before contacting Facebook. But we were already registering requests for reservations or information for match dates or broadcast schedule. Advertising was easy for us. And we were overwhelmed by the thousands of pages posted on Facebook.
The catering industry is coming out of the covid crisis: you are giving away recipes that can be so timely. How much can a World Cup increase the number of football matches?
We will have a deficit, it is clear. During the competition month, we can count 50 to 60% more figures. Especially since in principle, it is a month without a terrace. We will explode our statistics. We decided to sit on it.
Does the decision apply to all the parties at the head of the Maison du People?
Yes. My other addresses, Chez Franz, Chez Richard and Tortu, are obviously less well known for their match broadcasts. But it’s also valid in the cabaret of the Pentagon led by my colleagues: no football.
I know that among some of them, the idea of following the boycott is taking shape. But not all of them, and I understand it. Some want to show football instead of politics. It’s normal.
What will the future hold?
We broadcast matches before Qatar. We still have to position ourselves for Euro 2024 in Germany. There is no question of other competitions, such as union matches, which we have never offered. But personally, I think it’s more logical to spread the union: they still express some value, even if we’re not idiots. Football is inseparable from business. We are not going to play either radical and only broadcast ABSSA amateur matches. But in 2022, you need to educate yourself: promoting a circus like the one planned in Qatar is cruel. We don’t want to leave that world to our children.
“12 years ago you had to show teeth”
While Maison du Peuple’s decision was hailed on Facebook, other cafe owners who decided against broadcasting the match were marked with red cards. This is the case of this well-known institution in the capital, whose boss, disgusted, told us “to receive a lot of threats” since he announced his intention to show the Qatari meeting.
This popular brewpub has been around for decades. He went through “a lot of trouble”. Sports bar “for thirty years”, it gathers at its counter for major championships, but also D1 and lower level matches. The boss, Quadra who took over the business from his parents, said he was “disgusted”. He explained: “Even some friends scold me for broadcasting the World Cup. But what can I do? I need it. I have no more subscribers. In December, I will quadruple my number”.
My coffee is not charity. It also depends on whether the RTBF will boycott, or the Belgian Football Federation will not send their athletes. But there is a lot of money at stake!
The man recalls the day in 1998 when he returned with “a small Philips TV under his arm, bought on a street corner for 80,000 Belgian francs”. That day, he plugs it into the cafe. “My father told me I was crazy.” But the identity of his address was faked by the background of the lawn and the sound of the whistle. “People want to drink a good beer while watching a good match”.
In 2022, two months before the opening match at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, the manager did not budge. “There were deaths in South Africa in 2010, in Brazil in 2014, in Russia in 2018. My coffee is not charity. You want to boycott? You had to grit your teeth 12 years ago, when Qatar was nominated and then what: come to my place not to watch the match and anyway For sneaking at home?! It will also boycott the RTBF, or the Belgian Football Federation will not send its athletes. But there is a lot of money. Critical!”
This boss refuses to “judge others for their decisions.” And ends: “We’ll see if the Devils go to the semi-finals, if the Belgians continue to boycott!”