Qatar World Cup chiefs hit back at accusation of ‘paying’ fans in f…

World Cup 2022 preview: Group B

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Qatar officials have slammed suggestions that ‘fake’ fans have been deployed in the country ahead of the World Cup. Social media videos appeared to show supporters lining the streets clad in merchandise from different nations. 

Questions were raised over the authenticity of what were believed to be Indian expats clad in England merchandise, with clips showing them marching through roads. Those fans have insisted that they are genuine Three Lions supporters and have not been paid to promote the World Cup. 

Qatar has now rejected scrutiny over whether the fans are ‘real’, bemoaning that such assertions are ‘unsurprising’. “With four days to go until the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 kicks off, anticipation and excitement is building in Qatar as we prepare to welcome the world,” the Qatar World Cup Supreme Committee said in a statement. 

“Fans from all over the world – many of whom have made Qatar their home – have contributed to the local atmosphere recently, organising fan walks and parades throughout the country, and welcoming the various national teams at their hotels.

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“Numerous journalists and commentators on social media have questioned whether these are ‘real’ fans. We thoroughly reject these assertions, which are both disappointing and unsurprising.

“Qatar, and the rest of the world, is comprised of a diverse range of football fans, many of whom share emotional connections with multiple nations. 

“In different places around the world, fans have different traditions, different ways to celebrate, and while that may contrast with what people are used to in Europe or South America, it doesn’t mean the passion for football is any less authentic.

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“Journalists on the ground who speak and meet these fans are realising the reality. We look forward to the continuing build up to the kick off of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and it truly representing a moment that connects fans from all over the world, no matter how they choose to support their favourite teams.”

The World Cup begins on Sunday when hosts Qatar face Ecuador after the opening ceremony. England begin their tournament campaign the following day against Group B opponents Iran. 

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions arrived in the Middle East on Tuesday after spending Monday at their St. George’s Park training base. Some players are expected to take part in an open training session on Wednesday, although the squad’s fitness will be keenly monitored. 

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