Qatar accused of paying 'fake supporters' to be England fans at World Cup
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Qatar has been accused of hiring a bunch of fake fans to pose as England supporters ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Famous faces who have agreed to promote the event have faced calls to drop out over Qatar's horrific record of human rights abuses and attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community.
Even Sepp Blatter, the former FIFA president who oversaw Qatar winning its bid for the 2022 World Cup, has finally admitted it was a 'mistake' to let the country host the competition.
For the fans making the journey to the Middle East to attend the World Cup in person it's bound to be an expensive (and potentially very uncomfortable) trip.
Some fans will be spending the tournament living in a village made of metal boxes in the middle of the desert, while others are staying on cruise ships repurposed into hotels.
Qatar is eager to show it can successfully host the World Cup, but officials have now been accused of paying people to pretend to be fans ahead of the tournament, especially now that footage of the so-called 'fake fans' is circulating online.
A video posted to TikTok by the @qatarliving account shows a large crowd of men in England shirts carrying banners saying 'It's Coming Home', waving flags and playing music.
The thing is, a lot of people reckon they aren't actually England fans and are in fact people paid to dress up as fans so it looks like there's more of a buzz around the World Cup.
This hasn't just happened for England supporters either; other videos posted showing 'fans' of nations including Spain, Brazil and Portugal parading through Qatar have attracted suspicion.
Many have taken to social media to call out what they thought was a fake attempt to make the World Cup seem like it has more support.
One person called the footage 'the most embarrassing thing I've ever seen in football', while another speculated that 'attendance numbers are far lower than they expected'.
Someone else joked that it was 'perfectly normal for football fans to gather spontaneously 10 days before their team play'.
Others said they'd 'gladly' go out and party in the streets with a football shirt on if someone told them to.
Meanwhile, Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy, suggested that many of those seen in the videos were genuine football fans who engaged with the sport in a different way.
He took to Twitter to suggest that some of those seen in the footage could be there to 'bask in reflected glory' by supporting nations more likely to be successful at the World Cup.
Professor Chadwick explained that a study of football fans in the Gulf found that 78 percent of fans had a favourite foreign team along with a local side they supported, and the same proportion of 18-24 year old fans said they preferred to follow overseas teams.
He also explained that the Qatari government had been practicing a strategy of 'Enabled Fandom' by handing out free flags and banners so people could participate in the celebrations and identify with the teams of other nations coming to the tournament.
LADbible has contacted the Qatar World Cup organisers for comment.