The dearth of sports fans and audience in Qatar is so grave that organizers pay one dollar an hour to migrant workers as proof that their stadiums are full, an Associated Press report has claimed.
The oil rich Middle Eastern country is set to host seven major international sports events in the next eight years, including the 2022 FIFA World Cup. This is in addition to the other smaller events that Qatari officials regularly snag, thanks to their deep pockets and connections. In 2014 alone, it hosted 43 international events of varying magnitude.
But even such a massive influx of international action has done little to draw REAL Qatari people to stadiums. And while that's sad, the more important debate is why are sports governing bodies around the world still so keen on rewarding this tiny little country with rights to host their most important events?
It's already known that Qatar's hot and humid climate is not conducive to sports activities – both from the athletes' as well as fans' point of view. The expected shift of the 2022 World Cup from summer to winter threatens to disrupt two seasons of club football in Europe. But even that sacrifice could be made if there is enough local support for games in Qatar and if the conflict-ridden Middle East region stood to gain something from it.
It also raises huge questions marks over Qatari officials claims regarding their country's extraordinary love for sports. This is what Aphrodite Moschoudi, a member of DOHA2019 IAAF World Championships Bid Committee said earlier this year: "Qatar has a true passion for sports. Everything in our country revolves around sport."
If that really is the case then what to do of the report by Qatar's own ministry which found out that two-thirds of the country's population didn't attend any football matches last year due to the presence of hired fans in stadiums.
These fake fans are migrant laborers, who are paid approximately 30 Qatari riyals to behave like passionate fans, and are sometimes even asked to show up in Qatari attires to fool world audience. The availability of free wifi connections inside stadiums act as further incentive for these fake fans to get in.
"Shaking my body all over ... being in the crowd and shouting and dancing," Adu, a worker from Ghana told AP. "Being there and getting paid is a plus for me."
A series of controversies has ensued ever since Qatar secured the hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup. More than 1,000 migrant workers have already died during the construction of new stadium, which is in addition to concerns of Human Rights activists regarding Qatar's mistreatment and abuse of foreign laborers. Add to it the corruption scandal, and the hunch regarding the World Cup bidding process been rigged to favor Qatar grows strong.