Mondial 2022: Are ‘Fake Fans’ Real?

Argentine fans from the Indian subcontinent march through the streets of Doha holding drums in the tourist area of ​​Souq Waqif a week before the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off. Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

“In Qatar, we are no longer a mirage. It’s the kind of instinctive reaction that must have crossed everyone’s mind after viewing images of the Qatari capital’s arteries in recent days. We see beautiful and long human tides, perfectly ordered, in the colors of Argentina, Spain, England or even Brazil, marching in joy and good humor to the rhythm of traditional drums that Europeans or South Americans clearly do not like.

Clarification needed: this in no way means that a football fan from the Indian subcontinent cannot be an ardent supporter of choosing a country located on the other side of the globe. First of all because he could very well have been born there or have her nationality, but also and above all because this phenomenon is no longer surprising in an era of globalization (more importantly in Lebanon, where Seleção and Nationalmannschaft share most of the hearts of football fans).

It has been a long time since the polarization of football interests was mainly focused on the Old World, the most prestigious clubs of which gather Ushuaia fans in Vladivostok. But I must say that we are so used to finding empty shells behind the attractive packaging that Doha sells that we are now beginning to doubt everything.

This doubt has also become so methodical at the sight of videos from Qatar’s paid communications services that one would be surprised to assume the appearance of René Descartes thinking in front of his candle in the evening. And without claiming that an “evil genius” (one who, according to the famous mathematician, will play with our feelings) is on every corner of this new football capital, it seems clear that the scenes in question are more about tartuffes than about spontaneous manifestation.

Supporters-ambassadors

The operation seems all the more dubious as it is far from unprecedented in the emirate. According to the latest revelations released in recent weeks, the Mondial 2022 organizing committee would have tried to “recruit” hundreds of supporters from around the world with free tickets, hotel nights and prepaid visas. So, in order to restore an image tarnished by the ongoing controversy surrounding the competition and its preparation, the idea was to encourage these football influencers to post content and laudatory messages regarding the host country and organization of the competition.

Since 2020, many people have been interviewed as part of an official program that invites them to become fan leaders, according to a survey recently released by AFP. In other words, Mondial 2022 digital ambassadors with supporters and fan representatives with organizers.

“They wanted us to advertise ourselves as powerful French fans in order to sell them this World Cup in Qatar,” explains Fabien Bonnel, spokesman for the Irrésistibles français, the French team’s fan group. “We immediately refused, choking on reading the document. We had to use social media to promote this World Cup in Qatar,” he adds.

If this type of operation is no longer uncommon for major sporting and cultural events, it adds an extra layer of embarrassment to the backs of the organizers, who defend themselves against any attempt at manipulation. World Cup CEO Nasser al-Khater said the accusations were “groundless” in a video by Qatari news agency QNA. For him, this is “a new attempt to defame and question Qatar’s ability to host the tournament.”

The tournament’s supreme organizing committee, for its part, found it “disappointing, but not surprising” that the kind of allegations that continue to rain down on the emirate, the start of the tournament, which will take place this Sunday, November 20th.

“None of us got paid”

The accusations leveled against these alleged “false fans”, mainly from the Indian subcontinent, also drew backlash from key stakeholders. “It’s humiliating and very embarrassing,” said Amin Sharak, an Indian living in Doha and a fan of England.

Among the approximately 200 Indians (of whom only about twenty are English) who turned out to greet the English choice in front of their hotel in Al Wakra, south of Doha, on Tuesday evening, discussions focused on social media comments and articles by British, Spanish and French the press calls them “false supporters”.

Indians in Qatar are “outraged” at the thought of being paid to take part in this Doha waterfront parade, which drew several thousand people dressed mostly in jerseys, Sajid, 29. Argentina and Brazil, Friday.

“This is pure and simple disinformation and I would like to state loud and clear that none of us have been paid in any way,” he said. “We were in a lot of pain,” added Anas, who follows the Premier League “every weekend.” “People just don’t realize the importance of football in Kerala, the state at the southern tip of India where most of the fans at the Three Lions Hotel came from.

During the last World Cup in a provincial town, they even installed a 25-meter effigy of striker Harry Kane!

On Wednesday evening, several dozen Indians also showed up to support the French team as they arrived at their hotel, AFP said. Well-equipped (drums, trumpets, jerseys, flags) these fans also eliminate controversy: they are members of a group of French football fans in India followed by 13,000 people on Facebook, and they have been very active in this group since 2016.

“We started following the French national team after 1998, with Zidane. But at that time there weren’t very many of us,” says Fasalu Rahaman, a 36-year-old technician, clearly excited by the sight of the reigning world champions.

Of the 2.9 million people in Qatar, almost 750,000 are Indians and 400,000 are Bangladeshis. These immigrant workers from the Indian subcontinent, the country’s real economic powerhouse, seem to increasingly have their own core team.

At a sporting goods store in a nearby mall, a saleswoman confirmed the growing interest of locals in recent days in “especially jerseys from Argentina and Brazil” as well as some of Europe’s top teams.

It remains to be seen whether they will have the opportunity to exhibit in the stands: “800 Qatari riyals (about $210) is too expensive,” Fasalu Rahaman concedes in front of the main ticketing point in the central West Bay area. . “But we’ll be back, because prices change from day to day,” he hopes, leaving the line and his farandole of sweaters, which is not going to decrease.

Source: L Orient Le Jour

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