Image of beer disguised as 2015 Pepsi, not WK

The claim: Image shows smuggled Heineken cans disguised as Pepsi at World Cup

Two days before the World Cup kicked off, FIFA – football’s global governing body – abruptly announced that alcoholic beer would no longer be sold in stadiums during the tournament in Qatar, frustrating many of the one million fans expected to attend the matches .

Some social media users say attendees found a way around the ban. They share a picture of Heineken beer cans disguised as Pepsi.

“Fans are smuggling beer into Qatar,” reads a Nov. 24 Facebook post (direct link, archived link), shared nearly 200 times in seven days.

However, the photo is seven years old and was not taken in Qatar. It shows a customs officer in Saudi Arabia, where alcohol is banned, pulling the label off a Heineken can that looks like a Pepsi, according to multiple media reports published at the time.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the post for comment.

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The photo shows one of 48,000 smuggled cans seized by Saudi officials

In November 2015, Saudi Arabia’s customs authorities released the photo after authorities on the country’s border with the United Arab Emirates seized 48,000 cans of Heineken disguised as Pepsi.

“A truck carrying what appeared to be normal cans of the Pepsi soft drink was stopped and after the standard process of searching the products, it became clear that the alcoholic beers were covered with Pepsi’s sticker logos,” Al Batha Border General said. Manager Abdulrahman al-Mahna, according to The Washington Post, which quoted Al Arabiya News.

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Qatar has not completely banned alcohol, but drinking in public is not allowed and it is a crime to be drunk in public, according to the Library of Congress, which released information about Qatar’s laws ahead of the World Cup. The penalty for drinking in public is up to six months in prison and a fine of more than $800. Those caught smuggling alcohol into the country face up to three years in prison.

FIFA and Qatari officials had previously compromised on beer sales and decided that alcoholic beer before and after matches would only be sold within the perimeter of the stadium and not inside the stadium itself. FIFA gave no explanation for the sudden turn of events ahead of the tournament, and Qatar’s organizers referred to FIFA’s statement when asked for clarification.

The Associated Press, AFP and Reuters also debunked the claim.

Our assessment: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim that an image shows smuggled Heineken cans disguised as Pepsi during the World Cup as FALSE. The photo is not from this year’s World Cup. It is from 2015 and was seized in Saudi Arabia after authorities seized 48,000 cans of Heineken disguised as Pepsi at a border crossing.

Our Fact Check Resources:

  • FIFA, November 18, statement

  • The Seattle Times, November 14, 2015, Saudi Arabia solves case of smuggled beer disguised as Pepsi

  • Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, November 13, 2015, Pepsi Drink stickers on 48,000 cans of alcohol revealed an attempt to smuggle them through Batha Customs

  • The Washington Post, November 12, 2015, How do you smuggle 48,000 cans of Heineken into Saudi Arabia? Disguise it as Pepsi.

  • Al Arabiya News, 12 Nov. 2015, Saudi police seize 48,000 beer cans masked as soda

  • Library of Congress, September 1, Qatar: domestic laws enacted regarding the 2022 World Cup – Part 2

  • USA TODAY, Nov 18, Qatar officials ban beer from World Cup stadiums two days before tournament starts

  • The Associated Press, Nov. 28, Photo of beer disguised as Pepsi comes from Saudi Arabia in 2015, not Qatar

  • AFP, 30 November, Old photo of beer smuggled in Saudi Arabia resurfaces in Qatar World Cup reports

  • Reuters, Nov. 30. Fact-check photo of Heineken cans disguised as Pepsi is unrelated to the World Cup in Qatar

  • The New York Times, Nov 18, Banning Beer Is The Latest Flashpoint In World Cup Culture Clash

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact Check: Image of Beer Disguised as 2015 Pepsi, Not World Cup

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