They are also there in the match against the Netherlands. “If Qatar qualify, we will stay for a while,” said a Lebanese boy two hours before the match. He was not aware that Qatar could no longer qualify. When asked if he was paid for encouraging Qatar, he replied, “No, sir,” and stormed off.
Fake Lebanese fans are easy to spot. They all wear the same burgundy shirt with “Qatar” written on it in both English and Arabic. Most of them don’t feel like talking about what they’re doing here. They all give the same answer: “We would like to see the World Cup in an Arab country.” They show their ticket themselves and indicate the amount, as if they had paid it themselves.
The goalkeeper is good
Ahmed is ready to answer “tough” questions. He frankly admits that he is glad Qatar is now out. Then he can return to his homeland, Lebanon. He thought it was nice. He doesn’t know much about football. No one knows about the Qatari national team, which he enthusiastically supported in three matches. “Ah, yeah, what’s his name again, that bouncer, I think he’s good.”
Ahmed knows Qatar’s songs by heart, including the national anthem. He also trained hard. At the beginning of October, he, along with hundreds of other Lebanese, came to Qatar to train for the World Cup. Their only return: cheering for home.
Qataris don’t cheer
They don’t want it here from the Qataris themselves. They are afraid and you can hardly hear them, if they are already in the playground. A man from Qatar (“No, I will not say my name”) merely entering the stadium demonstrates that abundance is not in the nature of his people. “Football, by the way, is not like that. There are beautiful stadiums, but they are there for the World Cup.”
The stadiums not dismantled after the World Cup will soon be used for national competition, which usually attracts a few hundred fans. One of the criticisms of the World Cup in this country was the lack of football culture.
Qatar, which was allowed to participate because it organizes the tournament, has therefore had to bring fans from abroad into the skies for its own matches. The Lebanese listened. For a few people, it is a unique opportunity to be at the World Cup, but above all a chance to escape the economic hardship in their own country. Most of them are unemployed. Qatar paid for travel, accommodation and tickets, as well as a daily allowance.
“Good atmosphere guaranteed”
A FIFA spokesperson walking down the hallway of Al Bayt Stadium before the match against the Netherlands doesn’t want to say much about it when confronted by the fake fans. “They provide a good atmosphere,” he replied when asked if it was true that Qatar paid these fans and trained them to become die-hard fans.
Half an hour before the match, the diagonal section behind the goal is full of Lebanese. It is one of the few sections of the large stadium that is fully occupied. At the command of the fan leader, who wears a jersey of a different color and stands with his back to the field the entire time, they clap their arms rhythmically in the air. Occasionally at the same time a primitive cry and especially a lot of singing. Cheers erupted as the Qatar players were named for the match. The national anthem – not the national anthem – they sing out loud.
When the match begins, singing and drumming continue almost continuously. It’s a bit reminiscent of the photos of North Korean girls who ran around the world during the 2018 Olympic Games.
Voluntarily, of your own free will
They stress that, unlike these women, these boys are volunteers in Qatar. Ahmed, who is honest about it, agrees: “No one is forced to come here. It’s also just a unique opportunity for a unique experience.” The same goes for Ahmed himself. “I didn’t have a job. In Lebanon. Things are really bad there. If Qatar makes an offer like that, don’t say no.”
The Netherlands won the match 2-0 and Qatar had no chance. The guys in the Lebanese box throw another wave that goes across the entire court. It must be said, they do their job well. After that, they clap again for the players. It’s a wrap. They can go home, back to Lebanon, for a richer experience.
Empty seats in stadiums
There are empty places in many matches in the World Cup. How did this happen? Pitches are usually sold out.
The problem, says an insider, is that not everyone shows up. Qataris bought a lot of World Cup tickets. Also for family and friends who live abroad and might want to watch a match. But often they did not come. The result: a lot of vacancies.