Their country’s team aren’t even in the World Cup. So why are these fans traveling to Qatar?

Doha, Qatar (CNN) — The lodging is in tents or prefabs, there is not any beer in the stadiums, the temperatures are uncomfortably sizzling and the complete occasion is mired in controversy over alleged human rights abuses.

While that is not sufficient to deter hardcore soccer fans from traveling to Qatar to assist their nationwide groups in the World Cup, extra surprisingly, it hasn’t been sufficient to deter even these whose nation groups aren’t even in the competitors.

Walk round the slender streets of downtown Doha and you may’t assist however get caught up in World Cup fever, with fans from all 4 corners of the globe assembly in squares and eating places to have a good time their cultures with one another.

The evenings are significantly busy, with teams gathering collectively by nation, singing their hearts out to the seemingly fixed rhythm of drums that reverberate by way of downtown Doha.

One of the loudest teams in the days working up to kickoff was a pocket of England fans from India.

The group is totally coordinated, carrying the identical shirt with the identify of England captain Harry Kane on the again. They proudly sing songs related to the English nationwide team, however they combine them with conventional chants from again house.

“Football is our life”

Doha’s Souq Waqif market has grow to be a hub of fan exercise.

DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 17: Uruguay fans roam the streets with flags and scarves forward of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Souq Waqif on November 17, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The supporters went viral final week, with folks accusing them of being “pretend fans,” used to create the impression of individuals having fun with a World Cup that, thanks to the controversy surrounding its Middle Eastern hosts, could lack the common pizazz of the match held each 4 years.

Qatar 2022 organizers, in addition to FIFA, rubbished the claims and a member of the group informed CNN that he was stunned to see the headlines.

“We are a fan group from Kerala, in South India,” he stated, too busy singing and dancing to give his full identify.

“India shouldn’t be in the match and we have now all the time beloved England. We used to watch David Beckham play so we are obsessed with England in Qatar.”

These fans are consultant of a wider theme of Qatar 2022, which has allowed many to get a style of World Cup motion.

Ali Abbadi is from Jordan and presently lives in Dubai. He spoke to CNN as he explored Souq Waqif, a market which has grow to be a hub of fan exercise.

“I’m right here as a result of it is a good alternative and it is very shut to our nation,” he stated. “In 2018, the World Cup [in Russia] was too removed from our nation however now we really feel the World Cup is in our house.”

“In the Middle East we all the time watch soccer. Football is our life.”

Messi enterprise

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Ali Abbadi, like many others in Doha, will probably be supporting Argentina at Qatar 2022.

Ben Church/CNN

The 35-year-old was proudly carrying an Argentina shirt and he is definitely not alone.

The blue and white colours are by far the hottest in Doha this week and nearly all the shirts have the identify Messi on the again.

It not solely demonstrates the famous person participant’s pulling energy but additionally the influence that his present membership Paris-Saint Germain has had on the world.

The French aspect is owned by the Qatar Sports Investment group and posters of its star gamers, Neymar and Messi, are plastered throughout Doha.

But, not like many who’ve adopted the South American aspect for this 12 months’s match, it is not the purpose that Ali is cheering for them.

“I supported Argentina even earlier than Messi. Messi is doing an incredible job however I supported Argentina for greater than 15 years,” he stated.

“I watched gamers like [Gabriel] Batista, [Hernán] Crespo, so I hope they win in Qatar.”

It seems you do not even want to be passionate a couple of team in order to get pleasure from the World Cup.

Fei Peng is from China and traveled to Qatar to watch the match along with his associates. CNN met him as he was settling into his new lodging in one among the considerably dystopian fan villages on the fringe of the metropolis.

‘It’s good’

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The Leungs are staying in one among the fan villages and will probably be cheering for the Netherlands.

Ben Church/CNN

The scramble for lodging is probably going to warmth up given Qatar is about to welcome an estimated 1.5 million fans over the month-long match, which begins on November 20.

“This is a extremely good alternative to come to a bunch nation that’s smaller than my house metropolis [Beijing],” stated Peng, who informed CNN he had tickets for 35 matches over the match.

“We can have the alternative to attend so many video games, it is good.”

When requested who he’d be supporting at the World Cup, Peng stated he had “no actual desire” however wished South Korea and Japan to do properly.

“As I’m Asian, I need the Asian groups to do properly, however I’m simply wanting ahead to seeing good outcomes,” he stated.

“Also, I hope China can qualify for the subsequent World Cup in America, that might be so particular.”

Only a couple of doorways down from the place CNN met Peng, Jimmy and Kennis Leung had been getting comfy in their house for the subsequent 16 days.

The couple traveled to Qatar from Hong Kong however, not like Peng, they very a lot have a favourite team to assist.

Jimmy was dressed in the distinctive orange colours of The Netherlands and says he is excited to see his adopted team play, regardless of there being no apparent hyperlinks with the Dutch aspect.

“They have nice gamers and historical past and I similar to the team,” he stated, beaming. “I need to see all their group video games”

Amid all the criticism of Qatar 2022, the match has undoubtedly supplied a possibility for folks to get pleasure from one among the world’s largest sporting occasions for the first time.

Organizers will hope these tales go a way in justifying the choice to let the tiny nation of Qatar host a World Cup like no different.

Top picture credit score: David Ramos/Getty Images


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