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15th Nov 2022

Qatar accused of paying ‘fake supporters’ to be fans at the 2022 World Cup

Charlie Herbert

Qatar fake supporters

‘The most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen in football’

Qatar has been accused of hiring people to pose as fans of some of the nations taking part in the World Cup this winter.

The most controversial World Cup ever kicks off on Sunday (November 20) in Doha, with Qatar’s human rights record having been under intense scrutiny since it was awarded the tournament in 2010.

The country has faced huge criticism in particular for its stance on same-sex relationships and treatment of migrant workers, and this is only growing as the tournament gets closer.

Whilst the likes of Rod Stewart and Dua Lipa are distancing themselves from the event, other stars are coming under more pressure to answer questions about their involvement in the tournament.

Huge question marks also remain over what sort of event the tiny Gulf state with no footballing history is going to put on, and what sort of experience fans at the tournament can expect.

Qatar is eager to show it can put on a great World Cup though, and recently the tournament’s social media accounts have been sharing footage of swathes of partying fans.

But many don’t buy it and reckon that tournament organisers have paid for ‘fake fans’ to try make the World Cup seem like it has more support than it really does.

A video posted to TikTok by the @qatarliving account shows a large crowd of men in England shirts carrying banners saying ‘It’s Coming Home’, waving flags and playing music.

Other videos show ‘fans’ of nations including Spain, Brazil and Portugal parading through Qatar have attracted suspicion.

One person tweeted: “The astroturfed fake fans in Qatar shows just how unintelligent their leaders are that they believe this will convince people of some organic wave of passion is taking place there.”

Another called the footage ‘the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen in football’, while a third speculated that ‘attendance numbers are far lower than they expected’.

In response to the footage of Brazil ‘supporters’, one person said: “Anyone that has ever been to a World Cup or a game with Brazilian fans will know that this is not how the Brazilians operate.”

But Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy, has suggested that those in the clips were genuine football fans that simply engage with the sport in a different way.

In a thread on Twitter, he explained that a study of football fans in the Gulf found that 78 percent of fans had a favourite foreign team along with a local side they supported, and the same proportion of 18-24 year old fans said they preferred to follow overseas teams.

He also explained that the Qatari government had been practicing a strategy of ‘Enabled Fandom’ by handing out free flags and banners so people could participate in the celebrations and identify with the teams of other nations coming to the tournament.

Whether or not you think this makes them ‘fake fans’ or not is up to you.

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