He’s someone who is seriously tickling the crowd figures while hosts Qatar appear unable to account for the thousands of fans who appear to be missing from the official crowd numbers at the World Cup.
Can this really happen at the world’s biggest football party held once every four years?
Truthfully, there have been so many different theories, rumors or otherwise, and several photos taken from the opening ceremony and even Tuesday’s games seem to add fuel to the fire.
Let’s definitely take a look at the first four games played so far. The official crowd for all matches was listed to be well above the official capacity for each of the venues.
Photos taken in the stands in the middle of matches also showed thousands of missing fans.
These are the official crowds announced for the four matches: (1) Qatar vs Ecuador – 67,372 – the official capacity of Al Bayt Stadium is 60,000. (2) England vs Iran – 45,334 – Khalifa International Stadium’s official capacity is 40,000. (3) Netherlands vs Senegal – 41,721 – official capacity of Al Thumama Stadium is 40,000. (4) USA vs Wales – 43,418 – Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium’s official capacity is 40,000.
If you calculate the total figures, it shows that a staggering 17,845 have somehow slipped into stadiums they shouldn’t be entering. No explanation was given for the discrepancies.
Can this really happen, you ask?
More eye-catching were the photos taken from the Netherlands’ 2-0 win over Senegal, with the Netherlands celebrating a late goal with entire sections of the stadium seemingly empty.
The global media were caught off guard and the British newspaper The Sun, carried the announcement that 41,721 spectators had attended the match. And that got fans laughing on social media as well.
It comes after the embarrassing sight of Qatari fans walking away during the second half of the team’s loss to Ecuador, leaving sections of the stands looking grim.
FIFA doesn’t want to gape at explaining. But he gave an indication of the discrepancies in the crowd through British journalist Rachel Burden. Burden tweeted that FIFA had said “the capacity figure is the benchmark capacity that meets FIFA requirements. The final capacity during event mode is higher (hence the discrepancy).”
You wonder if you can seriously believe it.
Qatar became the first host nation to lose the World Cup opener in the tournament’s 92-year history. It only aired previous speculation that the wealthy state had paid “fake fans” to make public displays of support for various national teams.
Video shot in Qatar in the days leading up to the opening ceremony showed groups of so-called fans gathering in public to cheer on their team. Cynical commentators have suggested that the performances weren’t exactly convincing.
For the record, the tournament has stated that more than a million fans from around the world will be in Qatar during the tournament. But at least some of those fans have had a rough time, with housing nightmares and alcohol bans.
Austrian manager and former Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick is quoted as saying to a reporter: “You don’t need to buy fans for someone to support you, they’re automatically there already.”
The big suspicious question: Is anyone toying with crowd figures just to deliberately boost the numbers? How else can it seem that thousands of fans are missing from its official audience at this World Cup?
* Suresh Nair is an award-winning sportscaster who is also a qualified international coach and instructor of international referees
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