Qatar has been accused of paying hundreds of “fake fans” to parade for the cameras ahead of the World Cup.
Footage has emerged of football “supporters” from across the globe filling the streets of the Qatari capital Doha – a week before the tournament kicks off, The Sun reports.
Qatar Living – dubbed the country’s first official community platform on TikTok – has been posting videos of “fans” from different countries gathered in their hundreds with flags, painted faces, and banners.
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It’s not clear whether the fans are migrants workers who live in Qatar and have been partying early, or whether the parades have been staged by authorities.
One clip shows a sea of supposed Brazil fans waving flags in Doha Corniche – the waterfront promenade in the city – and others show supporters from Portugal, Argentina, Ghana, Cameroon and Tunisia.
Another post appears to show England fans chanting and playing the drums as they march through the streets holding a banner which says: “It’s coming home.”
The behaviour of the supporters appears to be carefully curated and staged – and questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the fans.
Some have accused of Qatar of orchestrating the parades using “fake” supporters – and questioned why fans have arrived in their masses more than a week before the World Cup starts.
Others social media users claimed to have spotted the same “fans” in separate videos showing their support for different countries.
Some also pointed out that there were no female supporters in the crowds.
One TikTok user commented on the clip of the England fans: “Paid actors!”
Another said: “I do wonder if they just hired random people to cheer.”
A third wrote: “Saw them all dressed as Brazil fans yesterday.”
A fourth commented: “I swear they’re paying the workers to be fans at this point I’ve seen them supporting like seven different countries.”
It’s not the first time Qatar has been accused of hiring “fake” fans.
In 2014, Qatar was accused of employing migrant workers as sports fans in an effort to make largely empty arenas appear full.
At the time, migrants said they were attending the Qatar Open of international beach volleyball for the money – not for the sport.
Numerous workers said they regularly make up numbers at sports events.
French players Edouard Rowlandson and Youssef Krou were playing a match during the tournament as the workers arrived to fill seats, making the arena appear almost full.
Rowlandson called the scene “bizarre… but we prefer that to playing in front of nobody”.
In January of the same year, a survey of Qatar residents suggested that paid fans could be putting Qataris off sport.
The Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics said two-thirds of Qataris cited “the spread of paid fans” as a significant factor in not watching football matches.
Qatar is already paying England fans to “spy” on their friends and be positive about the country during the World Cup – in return for free flights and tickets.
The group of Three Lions supporters have reportedly been handed instructions to sing certain songs when required and report any critical social media posts.
All 40 will receive free flights and accommodation in the desert country, £60 (A$105) a day in spending money loaded onto a Visa card, and complimentary tickets to World Cup matches.
The group of fans is understood to include four members of the England band, including leader John Hemmingham.
All are booked onto flights leaving for Doha on November 17.
Another 40 supporters from Wales have also signed up to the so-called “Fan Leader Programme”, along with groups from the 30 other competing countries.
Supporters’ groups have branded the move a “sinister, distasteful” marketing exercise that looks to whitewash the tiny kingdom’s appalling human rights record.
But Qatar is desperate to present a positive image of itself during the flagship tournament and has paid David Beckham millions to act as an ambassador for the hosts.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.