‘Real love for football not defined by race’: South Asian fans push back against racist comments of being paid

“A real football fan I believe is someone who got love for the sport and the teams immaterial of which country they belong to,” Sminto Antony, an Indian man from Kerala who has lived in Qatar for 33 years, told Doha News.

Accusations of Qatar hiring ‘fake’ football fans have flooded the internet after scores of Southeast Asian fans, mainly Indians, appeared in videos of the Brazil and Argentine fan parades that were held over the weekend..

The coverage by British media perfectly showcased a general lack of understanding about the demographic makeup of Qatar, the migrant workers they pretend to protect, and the existence of football fans beyond European borders and lenses.

The Indian population in Qatar exceeds 750,000, making up about 25% of Qatar’s overall population of 2,979,915.

It seems that Western media, just like most of the coverage they’ve offered this edition of the World Cup, still fail to let go of their preconceived notions about Qatar.

They cannot let go of their prejudicial belief that migrant workers lack basic agency, to the extent that they would be paid to go to a parade, instead of what it simply is. Football fans united by a game supposedly made for all, and cheering for their favourite teams.

“Accusations that the fans in the parades were paid to show up are exactly what it is, an accusation and it’s not something anyone should waste time investigating. Paid or not, it all created an atmosphere that suits such an event and that’s what matters,” Sminto Antony, an Indian man from Kerala who has lived in Qatar for 33 years, told Doha News.

However, those accusations were not the only reaction to those videos.

An Indian fan took to a known expat facebook group to talk about his experience while cheering for his favourite team, Portugal:Local and international social media reactions
This week, if you use any form of social media in Qatar, you most likely have come across jokes with racist undertones being made about the fans at the parades.
A fan tweeted: “I’ve been eagerly waiting for the World Cup and was happy that it was nearby in Qatar, only to find out that the Argentinian and Brazilian fans are all Indian :nauseated_face:. What is this luck? Can I refund my tickets and accommodation or is it too late?”
He, like many others, was not thinking of the game thats meant to unite nations and people. Instead, he was hoping to get a glimpse of “beautiful Brazilian women and samba dancers.”
And he was not the only one.
“I will go to Qatar to see foreigners
The foreigners in the World Cup:”
The comments became more stark when videos have surfaced of Tunisian fans in Qatar greeting their national team, with many saying “finally some real fans” in reference to the Tunisian fans, dismissing the possibility of the Indian fans being genuine supporters of the teams they went out in support of.
“There are about 20,000 Tunisians living in Qatar and hence they showed up like they did. I don’t think there are as many Germans, Argentinians, Spaniards, Brazilians, etc. living as expats in Qatar, but they do have a strong fan base who showed up to make up for it which happened to be Indians mostly from Kerala, ” said Antony.
Just prior to Argentina’s match against Italy in June of this year, the group Argentina Fans Qatar (AFQ) was established.
The story of ardent Argentina supporters from a variety of nationalities, primarily Indian, Nepalese, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi, as well as Africans and Qataris, is told through AFQ. These supporters claim that their love for Argentina and Messi knows no bounds.
“A real football fan I believe is someone who got love for the sport and the teams immaterial of which country they belong to,” Antony told Doha News.
Kerala’s football fever
“Indians, especially those from Kerala, have been a huge supporter of the sport that is football immaterial of which country the football team belongs to. And this is the case back in Kerala too and not just in Qatar,” said Antony, who is originally from Kerala.
Cutouts of three of football’s all-time greats were seen earlier this month in Pullavoor, Kerala, capturing the peak of the sport’s frenzy in a state that has already started preparing itself for the FIFA World Cup.
“That’s the kind of sports spirit many of them hold for football back in Kerala and they were only extending it to the host country which is Qatar.”

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