What do we know about these fans who are accused of paying money from Qatar to encourage Brazil, Argentina or France?

“Fans from all over the world gather in Doha”Fifa rejoiced in a tweet* On Sunday, November 13, a week before the start of the Qatar World Cup. From all over the world, really? In the comments, some netizens are wondering who some of these supporters are. This is the gist of a video posted on TikTok by French DJ, LB One, and shared widely on several platforms. Pictures of processions in the colors of Brazil, Argentina or even Spain superimposed on a track featuring an excerpt from Indian music, his caption accompanied by the hashtag #bollywood and an emoji showing tickets.

djlbone nothing wrong there? #qatar2022 #worldcup #portoi #mdr #qatar #fyp #coupedumonde2022 #bollywood #foryou ♬ Addictive – LB One

The subtext is not very subtle: these supporters would be from India (or neighboring countries) and they would have been paid to stand as supporters. Some also want to see it as a sign that fans from qualified countries are staying away from this World Cup, disavowing the much-criticised option to stage it in Qatar. But if these supporters did indeed have links with India, there is no way to say with certainty whether they marched on their own initiative or that of the organizers. Franceinfo is assessing this topic, a few days before the start of the 2022 World Cup.

Many of them are from India

In some photos, these supporters walk behind banners of groups with surprisingly uniform names: English fans Qatar, Brazilian fans Qatar, Argentine fans Qatar … groups are on Instagram, allowing us to glean some clues as to who these people are. And to confirm the authenticity of the photos: these pages invited people to gather, on Friday, in the same place in Doha, the Flags Square that we recognize in the background.

The Instagram pages of these groups reveal clear links to India. Qatar Brazil Fans celebrated 15,000 followers* on Monday by mentioning the account of a major Brazilian fan association, as well as three pages of Seleção fans based in Kerala, a state in southern India, known as the region where football is hugely popular. Recent images of yellow jersey fans gathering in Qatar are attributed to users who all identify as being from India.

A post celebrating the number of followers of a Brazilian fan page in Qatar, appeals to other fan groups in Brazil but also in the state of Kerala in India, on November 14, 2022. (BRAZIL FANS QATAR / INSTAGRAM)

This does not mean that these fans are only in Qatar at the invitation of the organizers. While some paparazzi were still posting pictures of India a few weeks ago, other profiles are clearly of expats who have been living in the emirate for years. This is also suggested by observing the accounts that interact with these posts. There are mainly Indian expatriates in Qatar.

These pages also promoted gatherings of fans that were organized several weeks before the start of the competition, a period when, logically speaking, fans who came from abroad did not arrive to compete. On October 28, the Argentine fans in Qatar organized “Hencha Night” * (a term for the Argentine fans) for its members in a hall in Doha. On September 21, this group of fans presented their jersey*, derived from the jersey that Lionel Messi will wear during the competition but emblazoned with the Al Ittihad crest, in partnership with a broadcasting radio station in Qatar, Radio Malayalam. A name to be reckoned with because Malayalam is the language spoken in the Indian region of Kerala.

They are not necessarily “false” supporters.

The fact that these supporters are from India, and not Qatar or the countries they support, does not make them a “false” supporter. Instagram Fan Pages were created for Brazil and Argentina in 2021 and this summer, respectively. But the profiles of some of the netizens who commented on them testify to a taste for football that is not new: they present themselves in T-shirts in posts sometimes several years old, even before they arrived in Qatar.

A group of fans of the French team, France Football Supporters Club India *, also present at the Friday rally in Doha, has been following Les Bleus (and Les Bleues) performances since 2019 and has organized several exchanges with a representative of the federation. French Indomitables, their main group of supporters in France.

And posted on Instagram, a group of Indian fans of the French team mixed pictures taken in India and Qatar.  (French football club in India/Instagram)

That enthusiasm may surprise, viewed from France, as India’s weight seems shaky in world football. But in spite of everything, football fans are found in its huge population (estimated at 1.4 billion). In July, India was among the top 10 countries in the world with the most tickets purchased for this World Cup, according to FIFA*. Since then it has been surpassed by other countries. Some of these enthusiasts, interviewed by Qatar’s Al Jazeera*, explain this enthusiasm by the relative proximity of the host country, which affords a chance to see icons like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the last time, but also the possibility of a relative potentially hosting them in Qatar.

In 2019, the number of Indians living in the tiny emirate was estimated at 700,000, far exceeding the 333,000 Qataris, according to an often-cited 2019 census by a local telecom company*. Qatar, for its part, no longer publishes a census of foreigners on its territory. A factor that could also explain why they are so numerous in groups of supporters based on location. This is the view advocated by the founder of the local Portuguese fan group, Elisabeth Reis, herself an expatriate in the country. You don’t have to be Portuguese to support the Portugal national team.you remember, quoted on Monday by the Portuguese media Renascença (link in portuguese). “We have fans from many nationalities, we should be proud of that. We don’t pay anyone like Portugal or our team.”

The previous examples of paid cheerleaders raise suspicion

Some details are still striking. Not all of these supporter groups may have held a rally on the same day at the same place by accident. It is rare for groups of fans to wear the same shirts. Did they all buy perfect cheerleader kits, like the one an Indian fan from Argentina opens while filming himself? Did the organizers organize these demonstrations of enthusiasm? Did they go so far as to charge participants a fee? It’s hard to decide. It reads a post from an Indian Instagram user, who was featured on Argentina Fans Qatar events “paid partnership”. He’s not promoting any product out there, simply going to the World Cup to support Albiceleste’s selection.

An Indian influencer expresses his support for the Argentine national team and announces his arrival in Qatar on June 4, 2022, in a post marked

Paying some spectators would not be new, explains to franceinfo Raphaël Le Magoariec, a researcher at the University of Tours. “Buying people to set the mood has been done. Qatari culture leads to this kind of practice.”This specialist, co-author L Qatar Empire: The New Game Master? (Editor points on i). He says he saw it in the stands of Al-Duhail matches, one of the local championship clubs, where spectators from Yemen or East Africa made it clear to him that they had paid to be there. In 2014, the British media, incl guardian*, similar testimonies on the sidelines of the beach volleyball tournament. Therefore, the emirate resorting to these methods again in the World Cup does not seem impossible. They want the World Cup to be the best ever, and they will do everything they can to make it so in their eyes.Raphaël Le Magoariec analyzes.

Added to this history is confusion with another accusation weighing on Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup: fans claim that the organizers have contacted them to spread positive messages about the progress of the competition, in exchange for invitations all expenses have been paid. Three French or Belgian fans testified to franceinfo. The organizing committee simply explains that they wanted to create a network of fans to connect with audiences around the world. However, this is a campaign aimed at fans from countries eligible for the tournament.

Their presence says little about the success of the World Cup

The presence of these groups of fans, supported by Qatar or not, does not really predict the crowds in stadiums when the competition begins. In mid-October, FIFA President * He claimed to have sold 2.9 million tickets, 63% of which were outside the host country. Fans who, logically, didn’t arrive a week before the opening game. “The organizers just want Set the mood before people arrive. It won’t be like this throughout the World Cup.”As Raphael Le Majoric believed.

He specializes in the sports history of the Gulf countries, and he does not expect the local audience to be invisible during this competition either: “The Qataris know football very well. There is a real enthusiasm at the local level, and I’m not worried about it.” In addition to Indian immigrants, the researcher believes that expatriates from Syria, Egypt or the Maghreb, which are regions passionate about football, should contribute to creating the atmosphere. To see if Qatar needed “false supporters” To fill the stadiums, it will be necessary to wait until they open their doors, starting from Sunday 20 November.

* All these links refer to content in English

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