At the first fan marches in Qatar, it is said that mainly Indian guest workers were disguised as Brazilian or German fans. Is Qatar now also buying into emotions?
They wore wigs in black, red and gold, painted the English flag on their faces or wore shirts with the likeness of Cristiano Ronaldo on the chest: Images from Qatar have been circulating around the world since the weekend. They show thousands of euphoric fans gathered on the seafront promenade in Doha for a fan march.
They should raise expectations. But above all, they increase the anger of the opponents of this World Cup. Because the trust between the spectators and FIFA is broken. And the fans didn’t seem that trustworthy either.
It starts next Sunday: At 5pm, Qatar will open their country’s World Cup with a match against Ecuador, making it one of the most controversial tournaments in the sport’s history. The World Cup at the end of the year has never been held before. It is played in a country without a football culture worth mentioning, after questionable awards, after much criticism of the human rights situation of guest workers, lack of understanding for the LGBT community and in stadium buildings that amount to climate sins.
“The world visiting friends” was the slogan of the German summer fairy tale in 2006. Today, the World Cup seems to be something of an enemy of the modern world.
From fascists to Putin
FIFA has repeatedly turned a blind eye to one or both venues. The World Cup was held in Fascist Italy and during the military dictatorship in Argentina. She was the reason why white elephants were kept outside the slums of South Africa and the favelas of Brazil. And during the latest edition in 2018, the ball was rolling in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Rarely, however, has the FIFA World Cup sparked such outrage as the one in Qatar.
The pictures from last Friday also show it. They are accompanied by deep mistrust. The first fans are said to have arrived in the streets. Apparently there were also expats based in Qatar who are happy to support their home countries in their adopted country.
But as the AFP news agency reported, Indian migrant workers in particular were dressed – or were dressed – in the clothes of Brazil’s Seleção, England’s Three Lions, Bleus or other teams. There are around 750,000 Indians living in Qatar, who make up a large part of the population of just 2.8 million. Many of them turned out to be Spain lovers, Maradona admirers and Portugal lovers last Friday.
Their photos should show: There are football fans in Qatar. There is a soccer culture. It will be a football festival. Everything is going to be fine.
Paid to be a fan?
The reactions on the Internet were even more overwhelming. It was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened in the world of football, writes a Twitter user. Many are sure that people would be paid to create a mood.
It cannot be ruled out that there is a France fan club in Qatar and that four-time world champions Germany have supporters everywhere – including Indian guest workers. And every sporting event has its marketing gimmicks, from free water bottles on the side of the road at the Tour de Suisse to free admission for school classes to the otherwise empty stands in Letzigrund for an FCZ match.
However, the mistrust of FIFA and Qatar is not unfounded. About ten days ago, ARD showed in research that the organizing committee of the World Cup invites 450 fans from 59 countries to Qatar for free. Travel, plane tickets, hotel, comprehensive program and even pocket money around 70 euros per day: everything should be paid.
In return: nice posts on social media with the slogan “Qatar – World Fan Cup” and the hashtag #IAMAFAN. This should even be regulated in the code of conduct that the participants of the so-called “Fan Leader Network” had to sign.
OC told ARD that the fans will be doing “unpaid volunteer work”. “We are not asking you to be the mouthpiece of Qatar. But it would be clearly inappropriate to denigrate Qatar, the organizing committee or the World Cup,” states the “Principles for Good Broadcasting”, available to ARD. Fans “with obvious political leanings” are not allowed in the program. These are questionable addictions that are no longer surprising in the world of sports and in the world of Fifa.
1,600 fans at the opening ceremony
Around 1,600 fans from participating countries are expected to attend the show for the opening ceremony. They will be present at the invitation of the organizing committee. Even this is met with criticism from fan organizations. Enthusiasm among active fan groups of national teams is probably rather low in many countries, Martin Endemann of the European fan alliance Football Supporters Europe told ARD. So buy Qatar fans. It is not representative representatives, but at most volunteers from Fifa.
Quite a few claim that Qatar bought the World Cup bid with its immense wealth. Now he fears that he will also buy the last football commodity: emotion.