Qatar World Cup, Neymar

Why the Qatar World Cup 2022 is Failing to Attract Tourists

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to kick off Sunday, November 20 in Qatar. Although a single game has yet to be played, the tournament has already generated a great deal of controversy in the media.

Qatar allegedly hires fake fans

Many news outlets are reporting that Qatar is hiring fans to attend the World Cup. According to The Guardian, groups of fake fans from England and Wales are set to be paid to travel to the World Cup and invited to the opening ceremony, in return for being official representatives of the tournament. The Times also reported that as many as 80 people across England and Wales have agreed to take up roles as representatives.

However, it’s not these “fans” that are making headlines.

Tik Toks have emerged showcasing alleged “fake fans” wearing jerseys of teams such as Brazil, Argentina, and England in the nation’s capital of Doha.

These England fans look like Indian migrant workers.
These England fans look like Indian migrant workers.

These Tik Toks, posted by Qatar Living, a website that promotes local Qatari businesses and helpful tips for tourists, show fans representing different countries chanting or playing instruments. However, many social media users are questioning whether the Tik Toks are legitimate or not.

Viewers noticed that many of the English fans looked like Kerala Indians – a huge percentage of the Indian migrant community in Qatar. Many of these “fans” also displayed minimal chanting and played non-English instruments.


Brazilian national team fans and supporters in Doha Corniche جماهير ومشجعي البرازيل في كورنيش الدوحة

♬ original sound – qatarliving

Although these allegations have been denied, its difficult to dispute the uncharacteristic behavior of each country’s passionate fan bases.

Cyber controversy

According to France 24, an India-based computer hacking gang has targeted critics of the Qatar World Cup. Although the Qatari government is furiously denying claims that they had any part in orchestrating this scheme, an investigation has been launched and the authorities are involved.


Fans and supporters of Argentinian national team in Doha Corniche محبين ومشجعي منتخب الأرجنتين في كورنيش الدوحة.

♬ original sound – qatarliving

The hackers were recruited in India, according to an article written by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The Indian hacking company, “WhiteInt,” was headed by a former Associate Director with Deloitte’s cyber team in India. His position at Deloitte has since been revoked after the hacking operations were exposed. “We are aware of the recent media reports outlining serious allegations about an individual who used to work for Deloitte India. This individual no longer works for Deloitte India,” a Deloitte spokesperson told the Economic Times.

It was also stated that his network of computer hackers allegedly used “phishing” tactics to access their targets’ email accounts and occasionally used malicious software to control their computers’ cameras, as well as microphones.

Many of the victims of WhiteInt’s attacks were news editors and popular media critics such as Jonathan Calvert, the editor of the Sunday Times, who is known to have exposed the corruption that led up to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2010. Other press journalists targeted by the hacking group have covered and publicly criticized Qatar’s migrant workers treatment and salary.

Although the investigation is still ongoing, the Qatari government’s spokesman told the media that these findings were “false,” and that Qatar was considering the possibility of suing those responsible for the “baseless allegations.”

Aside from conspiracies, why is Qatar failing to attract tourism?

Migrant workers

Migrant workers have been under inhumane conditions in Qatar.
Migrant workers have been under inhumane conditions in Qatar.

Since 2010, when Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the migrant worker population began rapidly expanding. From December 2010 to December 2018, the population jumped from 1.6 million to 2.7 million – migrant workers making up 95% of the total workforce.

In anticipation for the FIFA World Cup, an engineering company called Mercury MENA left dozens of workers stranded and penniless. These workers were involved in building vital infrastructure serving the city and stadium hosting the opening and the final matches of the 2022 World Cup. News outlets reporting out their findings shared that a group of 1,200 workers went unpaid for several months and went weeks without running water or electricity.

Much of the abuse and subhuman treatment comes from Qatar’s ‘Kafala’ system. This system encourages sponsorship-based employment which legally binds foreign workers to their employers, restricting all workers’ ability to change jobs and still preventing many from leaving the country without their employers’ permission.

The exploitation and abuse of the migrant work population has deterred many tourists from visiting Qatar and the surrounding areas within the last couple of years.

Media and visitor restrictions

Qatar’s restrictions on press freedom has been receiving a surge of attention from the media leading up until the FIFA World Cup. According to a recent press release, acquiring the appropriate press accreditation that Qatar has issued to journalists assigned to cover the World Cup is very restrictive in an attempt to discourage foreign media from covering the tournament.

Additionally, Qatar has banned all other travel not affiliated with the FIFA World Cup during the duration of the tournament.

Religion restrictions

Freedom of religion is not provided by law in Qatar. Since Islam is the state religion, the law punishes any citizen who offends or commits blasphemy against Islam or practices any other form of religion.

Qatar has also been accused of promoting religious cleansing of the persecuted Baha’i community, which is a religious minority in the Bani Dugal, Baha’i International Community (BIC).

Although travelers have a right to worship their religion behind closed doors, only religions that are registered religious groups have the ability to demonstrate their faith. Any unregistered religion is illegal to practice in Qatar.

Lack of accommodations

Hotels and rentals are at full capacity for the FIFA World Cup. In an attempt to solve the accommodation shortage, Qatar has brought in 69,000 temporary rooms for the tournament, 10,000 of the 69,000 rooms will be provided on the cruise ships. This is spread across shared villas, portakabin style accommodation and two cruise ships – the MSC Poesia and five-star MSC World Europa.

Corniche Doha Waterfront.
Corniche Doha Waterfront.

The bottom line

With only a few days left until the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony, Qatar is under severe media scrutiny and backlash. News outlets and reports are anticipating that the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be one of the most corrupt tournaments in history.

Max Francisco
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