A “strongly worded” statement… Qatar responds to the accusation of “fake fans”

The organizers of the Qatar World Cup 2022 defended, on Wednesday, football fans in the Gulf state, who were described as “fake”, for wearing shirts of prominent teams, during a mass gathering in the emirate last week.

Thousands of fans, mostly from India and other South Asian countries, took part in a rally in Doha that drew criticism, and some said they were paid to wear the shirts of Argentina, Brazil and England, in what they described as a publicity stunt for the tournament, which starts on Sunday.

The accusations have angered Indian fans, who say they have a passion for football.

The Qatari Organizing Committee entered the controversy by issuing a strongly worded statement supporting the fans, according to what was reported by “Agence France Presse”.

“Many journalists and commentators on social media have wondered if these are real fans,” the statement read.

“We strongly reject these assertions, which are disappointing and unsurprising,” she added. “Qatar, and the rest of the world, is made up of a diverse group of football fans, many of whom share romantic relationships with multiple countries.”

Mass gatherings days before the World Cup

About 750,000 Indians and 400,000 Bangladeshis live in Qatar, while the population of the Gulf state does not exceed 2.9 million.

When the English national team was received at its hotel on Tuesday, the number of Indian fans far outnumbered the number of Britons among the nearly two hundred people who were present.

Indian fans, mostly from Kerala state, beat drums and honked horns, proudly wearing England shirts and carrying England flags.

Indians in Qatar expressed their dissatisfaction with media reports and posts on social media that talked about “fake fans” in Doha.

“This is humiliating,” said Amin Sharak, who is based in Doha. “There is a lot of frustration.”

Another Indian fan, Sajid, said the community was “outraged” by the reports after last Friday’s rally. “It is pure fake news and I would like to say loud and clear that none of us have been paid in any way. We are big fans of England,” added Sajid, who identified himself without naming his family.

Qatar expects more than a million visitors to attend the 2022 World Cup over the course of the tournament, including about 70,000 Mexican fans and 30,000 Argentines, according to the embassies of these two countries.

Organizers said they wanted the event to be “a moment that connects fans from all over the world, no matter how they choose to support their favorite teams”.

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