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Dampened enthusiasm for Qatar among African fans

November 8, 2022

The rising cost of living and prohibitive costs of travel are set to make it difficult for African football fans looking to support their teams at the Qatar World Cup. Even national governments are trying to raise funds.

Cameroonian fans watching their team play Comoros, Stade d'Olembe, Yaounde, Cameroon, January 24, 2022
Prohibitive costs: Cameroon fans are unlikely to be travelling to Qatar in great numbers to support the Indomitable Lions at the World CupImage: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/REUTERS

The tough economic conditions after the COVID-19 pandemic combined with global inflation have created a drop in interest ahead of this year's World Cup among Cameroon fans.

Mathieu Youbi, a Yaounde-based businessman who organizes trips to the World Cup, has been hit hard.

"Having organized supporter trips for at least five World Cups, I can make a comparison. The interest for this World Cup is not as great as the other World Cups," Youbi tells DW.

"The post-COVID economic situation is putting a brake on spending. The companies that often offered trips to their executives as a means of motivation did not do it this time. I don't have the enthusiasm that I often have for the World Cup."

The Indomitable Lions return to world football's most prestigious tournament after missing out last time. The Lions go to Qatar with hopes of matching their all-time best finish of a quarter final at Italia '90. But the enthusiasm of fans is dampened by the economic downturn with things like food prices rising by almost 15% in August.

"I doubt that I can achieve my sales goals," Youbi sighs. "Cameroonians are not interested. This World Cup is too expensive, it must be said."

Ghana out for Uruguay revenge

Abraham Boakye, famously known as the One Man Supporter and founder of the Ghana Supporters Union, remembers the difficult emotions that overwhelmed his country after Ghana lost to Uruguay at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

It was a night on which the Black Stars nearly upset all the odds to reach the semi-final of the competition only to see their dreams fizzle out after Luis Suarez infamously stopped a goal-bound attempt with his hands.

Striker Asamoah Gyan missed from the penalty spot before Ghana were eliminated in the shootout, denying them the chance to become the first African country to reach the last four.

"They have an opportunity to avenge that loss in Qatar where they will once again face Uruguay, this time in the group stages," Boakye told DW. "Everybody wants to see that match again. Fortunately, Suarez is still playing."

Uruguay's Luis Suarez, left, stops the ball with his hands to give away a penalty kick during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Uruguay and Ghana at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday, July 2, 2010.
Scandal: Ghana are out for revenge over Uruguay following Luis Suarez's infamous handball at the 2010 World CupImage: AP

Hopes on the government

But Ghana fans must find their way to the tournament in Qatar at a time when tough economic conditions across the country are making life difficult for the majority of the population. Inflation rose to 37.2% in September as the currency, the cedi, lost 40% of its value.

Boakye hopes that the Ghanaian government will make it possible for the organization to send its members to the tournament.

"We are waiting to hear from the government how many supporters they will sponsor to go to Qatar. Hopefully, the government will announce something soon," said Boakye.

It is less than a month to the tournament. In September, Ghanaian Youth and Sports minister Mustapha Ussif said that the government would not use taxpayers' funds to send fans to the World Cup.

"The government is trying to raise funds through Corporate Ghana to help us to take fans to support our Black Stars," Ussif told the Citi FM radio.

But Boakye believes that the supporters union is a cultural group that embodies the country's culture and needs the government to step in after the loss of their former sponsors.

Low expectations in the North

Moroccan Mehdi Charqi attended the last World Cup in Russia as the Atlas Lions returned to the big stage for the first time since 1998. But he will not be going to this year's tournament in Qatar.

"I'm growing a bit older so today I have other focusses," Charqi told DW. "I don't really believe that Qatar is a land of football where I can enjoy being at a World Cup. I had a really great experience in Russia and I want to protect that memory."

While Morocco and Tunisia will be playing in the first World Cup to be played on Arab soil, North Africa football historian Adel Haddad believes that the World Cup in Qatar is out of the reach of many fans.

"It will be hard for North African fans to go to Qatar, especially with tickets 30% more expensive than Russia 2018, plus visas, transportation and accommodation there. It won't be easy for fans to afford," Haddad told DW.

The World Cup will take place from November 20 to December 18.

Edited by: James Thorogood