The teams of their countries do not even participate in the world championships. So why are these fans going to Qatar?

Doha, Qatar (CNN) – Accommodation is in tents or prefabricated houses, there is no beer in the stadiums, the temperatures are unbearably hot, and the whole event is mired in controversy over alleged human rights violations.

While this is not enough to keep ardent football fans from traveling to Qatar to support their national teams at the World Cup, more surprisingly, it is not enough to keep even those whose national teams don’t even compete.

Wander the narrow streets of downtown Doha and you can’t help but get caught up in the World Cup fever as fans from all four corners of the globe meet in squares and restaurants to celebrate their cultures with each other.

The evenings are especially crowded when groups come together across the countries, singing from the heart to the seemingly constant rhythm of the drums that echo through the center of Doha.

One of the loudest groups in the days leading up to kick-off were the England fans from India.

The group is fully coordinated, wearing the same jersey with the name of England captain Harry Kane on the back. They proudly sing songs related to the English team, but mix them with traditional chants from home.

“Football is our life”

Doha's Souq Waqif marketplace has become a hub of fan activity.

Doha’s Souq Waqif marketplace has become a hub of fan activity.

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

Supporters went viral last week and people accused them of being “fake fans” used to give the impression that people are enjoying the World Cup, which, due to controversy surrounding its Middle Eastern hosts, may lack the usual pomp of a tournament held every four years.

Qatar 2022 organizers, as well as FIFA, denied the allegations, and a member of the group told CNN he was surprised to see the headlines.

“We’re a fan group from Kerala, South India,” he said, too busy singing and dancing to give his full name.

“India is not in the tournament and we have always loved England. We used to watch David Beckham play, so we are passionate about England in Qatar.”

These fans represent the broader theme of Qatar 2022, which has given many a taste of the World Cup action.

Ali Abbadi is from Jordan and currently lives in Dubai. He spoke to CNN when he researched Souq Waqif, a marketplace that has become a hub of fan activity.

“I am here because this is a good opportunity and it is very close to our country,” he said. “In 2018 at the World Cup [in Russia] was too far from our country, but now we feel that the World Cup is at home.”

“In the Middle East, we always watch football. Football is our life.”

Business Messi

World Cup Fans 2

Ali Abbadi, like many others in Doha, will support Argentina at the 2022 Olympics in Qatar.

Ben Church/CNN

The 35-year-old proudly wore the Argentina jersey, and he is certainly not alone.

Blue and white are by far the most popular colors in Doha this week and almost all the shirts have Messi’s name on the back.

This not only demonstrates the superstar’s drive, but also the impact his current club Paris-Saint-Germain has had on the world.

The French team is owned by a Qatari sports investment group and posters of its star players, Neymar and Messi, are all over Doha.

But unlike many who have chosen a South American team to play in this year’s tournament, Ali is rooting for them for a reason other than that.

“I was a fan of Argentina even before Messi. Messi is doing a great job, but I have been rooting for Argentina for over 15 years,” he said.

“I watched the players [Gabriel] batistuta, [Hernán] Crespo, so I hope they win in Qatar.”

Turns out you don’t even have to be a passionate team to enjoy the World Cup.

Fei Peng is from China and came to Qatar to watch the tournament with his friends. CNN met him as he was going to bed in his new apartment in one of the pretty dystopian fan villages on the outskirts of the city.


World Cup Fans 1

The Leungs are staying in one of the fan villages and will be rooting for the Netherlands.

Ben Church/CNN

The battle for placement is likely to escalate with Qatar hosting around 1.5 million fans during the month-long tournament starting on November 20.

“This is a really good opportunity to come to a host country that is smaller than my hometown. [Beijing]said Peng, who told CNN he has tickets for 35 tournament matches.

“We can have the opportunity to visit so many games, it’s wonderful.”

When asked who he would support at the World Cup, Peng said he had “no real preference” but wanted South Korea and Japan to do well.

“Because I’m Asian, I want the Asian teams to do well, but I’m just looking forward to good results,” he said.

“Also, I hope that China can qualify for the next World Cup in America, it will be special.”

Just a few doors down from where CNN met Pan, Jimmy and Kennis Leung settled into their home for the next 16 days.

The couple came to Qatar from Hong Kong, but unlike Peng, they have a favorite team to support.

Jimmy was dressed in the distinctive orange colors of the Netherlands and says he’s happy to see his adopted team play, despite having no apparent ties to the Dutch side.

“They have great players and history and I just love the team,” he said beaming. “I want to see all their group games”

Despite all the criticism of Qatar 2022, the tournament has undoubtedly given people the opportunity to enjoy one of the biggest sporting events in the world for the first time.

Organizers hope these stories will somehow justify the decision to let the tiny nation of Qatar host the World Cup like no other.

Featured images courtesy of David Ramos/Getty Images.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *