The final countdown is on to the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The world’s biggest tournament kicks off on Sunday, while England and Wales will kick-start their campaigns the following day. Excitement is building among fans, despite all the controversy surrounding this edition of the competition. There is no ignoring the controversy surrounding the treatment of migrant workers and the other human rights issues in Qatar, but at this point, we know the show will go on nonetheless.
Nations have already started to arrive in Qatar, and the fans won’t be far behind, but according to videos put out by a Qatari TikTok account, thousands of fans are already parading the streets.
That has led to claims of the host nation paying fans to make the atmosphere look more exciting than it is, and here we round up what we know so far.
What are the accusations?
Videos have emerged on the Qatari Living TikTok channel, which has more than 400,000 followers, of fans singing and dancing along the Corniche in Doha.
The videos show fans of a variety of countries, including England, Brazil, Argentina and others, chanting and waving flags. The videos are meant to show fans who have arrived early in Qatar to soak up the atmosphere ahead of Sunday’s big kick off.
The videos depict a parade-like atmosphere, and it seems a little fishy that there are equivalents for a number of nations. The England video, for example, appears to show ‘fans’ who are almost all of Asian ethnicity, and it’s no secret Qatar is a nation made up of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, many of which come from Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
That has led to claims from fans on social media that Qatar may have paid migrant workers to take part in the videos, which do appear rather orchestrated.
Of course, it could be a case of migrant workers being England, Brazil, Argentina fans and so on. But the similarity in the parades does make them feel a little off, compared to how you would usually see football fans act.
What have Qatar said?
A spokesperson for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy told Sportsmail: “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.
“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.”
How many fans are heading to Qatar?
There are no exact numbers, but England’s official supporters’ club reported that around 3,000 fans applied for tickets for each group stage game. FIFA reported that more than 800,000 tickets were sold in the first round of ticket sales alone, while Qatar are expecting 1.3million fans to visit across the course of the competition.
The Netherlands FA say they have received 3,000 applications for each group stage game, while the Swiss FA say their number is at around 5,00, but both of those numbers are significantly fewer than previous World Cups, according to The Athletic.