In Doha, supporters take over the premises

The streets of Doha fill hour after hour with supporters from all walks of life, offering a joyous melting pot of authentic and non-authentic fans, influencers and happy fads.


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The problem with Qatar is the drops. Those of sweat, first, that the peaks of heat make dripping from shiny skulls from the first rays of the day. Arrived on Saturday morning in Doha, Darío, an Ecuadorian crossed with an armored bag on his back, breathes: “I left Quito in the rain and find myself in barbecue heat here. I think it’s going to take me a few days to get used to it, but now that I’ve arrived without problems, the important thing is tomorrow’s opener against Qatar. » Friday evening, Arnov, who had come from Birmingham with three friends, didn’t care about the heat. His quest was turned towards other drops. “We saw earlier that alcohol will ultimately not be allowed near the stadiums. It’s quite frustrating” , he slips after climbing on the hump of a dromedary at the entrance to Souq Waqif, the market and place of the city where all the tourists in the world have been bouncing for a few days. For the rest, the young Englishman, Jude Bellingham’s jersey on his back, has so far made a success of his start to the World Cup with hair cut like Ronaldo 2002 and tickets for several meetings in his pockets. Around him, Doha is finally waking up after the first fairly calm hours. The Tunisian supporters, initially quite alone in putting on the box, were joined on Friday by Moroccans, Cameroonians, Senegalese and various South American fans. In response, local security forces cordoned off 99% of the entrances to the Souq and set up an Ikea-style closed circuit where funny scenes mix.

“For all of us, it was a financial opportunity, a way to support our families, and yes, during the World Cup, we will be behind Qatar. » Samarasiri, Sri Lankan living in Qatar

It is thus possible to come across a tipsy Mexican – yes, there are still sources of alcohol in Doha – sitting on a bench between two men, thobe on the body and ghutra on the head, another local who tries to make say to a Brazilian journalist in full live that “so far, everything is perfect” or a line of Qataris waiting to be able to take pictures with the Cameroonian supporters. Earlier in the day, as the metro saw its first big traffic jams, another photo caught the eye: that of about 60 Sri Lankans who came to carry a long banner to show their support for Qatar and to wave flags of the host country not far from the lens of a photographer from the Qatari football federation. Some of them are wearing Sri Lanka jerseys, others are wearing T-shirts with a clear message: “Sri Lankans – We support Qatar. » “It’s the start of the holidays for some, schools closed on Thursday evening, and this day is an opportunity for us to show our gratitude for our second country, Qatar.details Samarasiri, who attends the moment with one of his friends, Sanjeewa. We have been here for 25 years, others have arrived a little more recently and we are happy to be able to experience this World Cup. She is a bit ours too, because we have all, at our level, worked for and thanks to her. » The exchange continues, the two men concede that “It’s not always easy, the schedules are often hard” and say: “For all of us, it was a financial opportunity, a way to support our families, and yes, during the World Cup, we will be behind Qatar. »

Fake fans, really?

Then comes the question of the famous “false fans” paid by Qatar, a country made up of nearly 90% foreigners, during this World Cup. Since the publication in early November of short videos on social networks relaying the march of supporters supervised by local authorities, mistrust is in order and there is sometimes something. In the aisles of Souq Wafiq, Argentina jerseys are legion and often worn by young men from Southeast Asia. When questioned, one of them, an Indian, confides “to be there to unite Argentinian fans around the world” but when asked who his favorite player is or how his relationship with theAlbiceleste, he wallows in silence and casts worried glances. In the Doha metro, among a group of Indians living in Qatar, a man in a Neymar jersey admits with an embarrassed laugh that he is not really a aficionado of the Selection. He will quickly be called to order by his neighbor on the left, dressed in a Germany jersey, not really happy with the speech given.

“I’ve heard that some have been paid, but talking to them, but also to English journalists, you also get the impression that for the most part, they are mostly normal fans who go to a Global. » Arnov, English fan

All this does not mean that all the supporters crossed with jerseys from Argentina, Brazil, Germany or the French team are pure products of the Grévin museum. In Qatar, the Indian community is the most represented – 25% of the local population – ahead of the Bangladeshis and the Nepalese, and many, mainly from the Kerala region in southern India, do not hide their love for the football. Faced with the virtual certainty of never seeing their selection play in the World Cup one day, some have simply found a substitute selection, like the members of the French Football Fans Club India who welcomed the Blues on their arrival in Doha. Arnov, the English fan seen at Souq Waqif, has his thoughts on the matter: “I’ve heard that some have been paid, but talking to them, but also to English journalists, you also get the impression that for the most part, they are mostly normal fans who go to a Global. » At TelegramGireesh Edavana, a 42-year-old Indian engineer living in Doha, even confided to being “shocked” when he and his group of 500 supporters of the Three Lions were categorized as fake : “Many of us became fans of the England team through David Beckham. He was the one who made us fans when he was playing. » Coincidence or not, the Spice Boy is now one of Qatar’s cultural ambassadors for the World Cup after accepting a fabulous check for tens of millions of euros last year. Not necessarily the ideal example to dispel all doubts, therefore.

Dear leaders

Met with her French companion in the souq, Elisabete Reis was one of the 400 fan leaders selected in 60 different countries to come and promote the competition. She is in her 40s, Portuguese, has lived in Qatar for 15 years and works as a personal trainer and ambassador for a jewelry brand. To obtain this unique cap, she was approached by the Organizing Committee of the 2022 World Cup, but she claims not to have touched the slightest riyal to support Cristiano Ronaldo and his friends. “These articles… It’s cheap journalism. » However, as revealed by Guardian, who took note of a message sent by the Organizing Committee, Elisabete should have received a nest egg to promote the World Cup on her social networks. Problem, because of the many papers written on the subject, the expenses so that these fan leaders, expected en masse for the opening match, can eat on the spot was finally canceled at the last moment. Not enough to disturb, for the moment, the ball of arrivals which continues, in a Doha which always seeks to smooth out its image as much as possible in a Disneyland setting which is slowly coming to life.

By Maxime Brigand and Andrea Chazy, in Doha
All statements collected by MB, AC and MR, except where noted. // Photos: MB and AC.

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