The organising committee dismissed earlier claims over paying the fans in exchange for “positive” posts on the sports event.
Several fan leaders from across the globe have been invited to visit Qatar to promote the much-anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup, due to kick off in less than a month.
In a statement to Doha News, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) said the Fan Leader Network is designed to engage and directly communicate with football fans from different parts of the world.
The initiative places great emphasis on the role of fans, describing them as “the cornerstone for any successful tournament”. Comprising more than 450 individuals from 59 nations, the network provides members with the opportunity to experience the true spirit of sports.
“We have been able to understand how fans from a vast variety of footballing cultures enjoy sporting events and offered them direct access to tournament organisers to share their feedback and ask questions about the tournament and host country,” the SC told Doha News.
Initial reports by western media outlets claimed Qatar paid for the fans to visit the country for what it described as “good PR”. However, the SC dismissed the allegations saying the invitees were not paid but had their expenses covered.
The members have personally volunteered and “expressed an interest in learning more about the tournament and the host country,” the SC noted.
With the World Cup uniting all nationalities and cultures, the network gathers superfan leaders, football tournament attendees, grassroots football enthusiasts and official and unofficial fan group members.
“As the tournament nears, we have invited our most active fan leaders to personally nominate a small selection of fans to join us as our guests to participate in the opening ceremony for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” said the SC.
Some of the events the members of the network attended included the FIFA Arab Cup, FIFA World Cup Final Draw, and the Lusail Super Cup.
The initiative comes as at least 1.5 million visitors are expected to head to the Gulf state for the major sporting event. Some of the spectators are visiting Qatar or the Middle East for the first time ever.
With Qatar being the first country in the region to host the major event, Doha has worked on introducing fans to the Middle East’s rich, diverse culture and heritage.
The Qatari culture is represented across all stadiums built for the World Cup as well as a range of initiatives designed to support the major global event.
Among such initiatives is the first-of-a-kind “Host a Fan” project, which allows households across Qatar to volunteer to host visiting fans during sports events in the Gulf state, in bid to encourage cross-cultural experiences