Expect to hear cheers from more than just the traveling Argentinian fans when Argentina plays Saudi Arabia in their opening match of the World Cup on November 22.
This will be Argentina’s first ever appearance in the World Cup.
Another group of committed fans here has been rooting for La Albiceleste ever since the year 1986, which is long before Lionel Messi was even born.
Argentina Fans Qatar (AFQ) was established back in June of this year, right before Argentina’s game against Italy. While some of the spectators will be inside the stadium during the months of November and December, others will be cheering from outside in the fan zones.
But AFQ is the story of die-hard Argentina fans of diverse nationalities, predominantly Indian, Nepalese, Sri Lankans, and Bangladeshi, and also includes Africans and Qataris, who say their love for Argentina and Messi knows no bounds.
As a result of Messi’s announcement that the upcoming World Cup in Qatar will be his last, there is a growing interest among fans to watch him play in his final tournament, and their greatest hope is that the two-time defending world champions will win their third crown on December 18.
“Our driving force is the love for Argentina,” Mohammed Suhail Ali, an Indian engineer and one of the founding members of the 5,000-strong group, told Al Jazeera at a carnival of Argentina fans in Qatar. “Our goal is to support and make traveling fans feel at home in Qatar,” Mohammed Suhail Ali said.
The ceremony was attended by around 3,000 people from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Italy, Spain, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Additionally, there were approximately 100 Argentine citizens present, in addition to the Argentine Ambassador Guillermo Nicholas.
“The only thing that unites us is our love for Argentina,” he continued, “and we were able to increase the fan base to more than 5,000 within a span of five months.”
The bulk of AFQ members hail from the state of Kerala, which is known as the “football capital” of India and is located in the southern part of the country, where Argentina and Brazil supporters predominate.
According to Muhammed Shaneed, a real estate marketer from Kerala who has been a member of the club since its start, the love of Argentina and Brazil in India extends back much further than Messi’s birth.
The first World Cup that supporters in Kerala were able to witness was in Mexico in 1986. During that tournament, the Brazilian squad, which was captained by Socrates and featured stars such as Zico and Falco, mesmerized everyone who watched them play with the ball.
As Diego Maradona rose to fame and won the hearts of football fans all around the world at that same World Cup, fans were able to witness the birth of a new star and be a part of it.
Rafeek Hammed, an Indian shopkeeper and another AFQ representative, stated that “I was converted by Maradona’s magic in 1986 to lead his country to win the title,” and that “all we do here is a manifestation of our unending love for Argentina.” Hammed is an AFQ spokesperson. We are rooting for Argentina and Messi to win, and we will be there to show our support at the stadiums.
A Nepalese store attendant by the name of Faiz Khan said the following: “I began supporting Argentina when I was in elementary school, where I witnessed people paint their vehicles, roads, trees, and even their houses in white and blue. I have a personal stake in them, and it would mean a lot to me if they were victorious. I have tickets to watch all three of the group matches, as well as maybe one of the quarterfinal matchups.
A Cameroonian educator by the name of Roger David said the following: “Argentina has my support because of Lionel Messi, who is the finest in the world and deserves it. Because he has already done everything there is to do in club football, this is now his opportunity to shine and win the golden prize.
Ismail Ali, a fan from Pakistan, claimed that fans are emotional people who want for happiness in football through Messi. “Fans are looking for happiness in football through Messi.” “He has delivered a great deal of happiness and memorable moments to the world, and as a result, this is his opportunity to win the World Cup for the entire world.”
Jessica Costa, originally from Argentina and currently studying at Qatar University, expressed her delight at the fans’ carnival.
“It’s incredible to see individuals from various countries wearing the shirt of your country,” she added at one point. “It makes me really happy to watch them celebrating Argentina with such enthusiasm while rooting for our team,” she said.
According to Lucas Aurieme, an Argentinian citizen who currently resides in Qatar, the sight of other nationals rejoicing and cheering for his country was “weird yet cool.”
He claimed that Argentina “moves that sentiment of people all over the world,” and he added that he felt “elated” when riding the metro to the event and seeing numerous fans dressed in Argentina’s colors. Argentina is currently competing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“Simply because we are from Argentina, a great number of people have requested selfies from us. We’re not even famous,” he went on to say.
According to Agustina Ramos, it is the ambition of every Argentine to watch Messi and his colleagues win the World Cup in 2022.
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