Thousands of French fans are gearing up to flock to the Gulf nation to attend the World Cup, even after hefty criticism that has targeted Qatar for decades.
Around ten thousand French fans have registered through the Hayya portal to attend the much-anticipated World Cup in Qatar, despite heavy criticism of the host nation across European media.
French ambassador to Doha Jean-Baptiste Faivre revealed the figures this week, as Arabs across the world called out French newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné online for a racist depiction of Qataris in football kits.
The image employs the exhausted use of ‘savages’ – ‘long bearded’ angry men with dark hair, and angry expressions in possession of guns and knives. One character is drawn to be wearing a ski mask while carrying a rocket launcher and a an AK-47.
Another has dynamite stick bombs wrapped around his waist and is carrying a machete knife, feeding into the xenophobic and orientalist tropes that Arabs are ‘backwards’ hence using primitive tools.
However, the ambassador told Al Kass TV that criticism of Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers by some French entities “do not reflect the position of the government.”
“France will not boycott the World Cup,” he added.
However, the European country, which won the previous World Cup in 2018 in Russia, announced it will not be screening matches in some French cities nor setting up fan zones like previous World Cups.
The official, on the other hand, claims that it is only because of the “cold temperatures” and the “economic cost” of setting up fan zones.
France continues to have “preconceived ideas” about Qatar, Faivre highlights, and that’s why more balance and awareness is needed.
This has been apparent in the way European media outlets use xenophobic and orientalist tropes to depict Arabs and Muslims in a negative light, with many of these narratives shared by state officials, inevitably setting in motion a wave of violence towards these communities.
France has also been accused of systematically targeting its Muslim population due to a surge of marginalising policies driven by President Emmanuel Macron to address the alleged “separatism and Islamism”, a recent report by the British advocacy group, Cage, stated.
The report underlines Macron’s implementation of executive powers to create a “systematic obstruction” policy to target Muslim groups and entities in France over the last four years.
However, growing economic relations between Qatar and France aim to change such perceptions and work on amending the ties between the two continents.
“Of course Qatar is known as an economic partner and it is true that investment and contracts are synonymous with jobs and growth in France, but relations between Qatar and France go well beyond this,” the ambassador said.
France among top 10 markets for World Cup tickets
Despite calls to boycott the World Cup, France is one of the top 10 markets for the 3.1 million tickets, according to FIFA statistics.
In addition, France is one of the 15 countries sending security troops to Qatar to assist in managing the World Cup.
In total, over 1.7 million visitors are expected to flock to the Gulf nation to attend the World Cup in November.
The number is expected to be much higher after authorities opened the registration portal for non-ticket holders to visit the nation after December 2nd.