FIFA’s stadium number announcements at the 2022 Qatar World Cup so far have come under question amid doubts over their legitimacy. All four matches have produced attendances higher than the stadium capacity, made even more bizarre by the noticeable number of empty seats in the early stages of the controversial tournament.
After spending billions to host the world’s greatest sporting show since its 2010 awarding, Qatar will be desperate to put on a spectacle to remember. But there has been an attention-grabbing factor to each clash in the opening two days: empty seats. Everywhere.
Even in the historic opener between the Middle East’s inaugural hosts Qatar and Ecuador at Al Khor’s Al Bayt Stadium, there were sections in which fans were surprisingly scarce. And attendance rapidly plummeted throughout the curtain-raiser as Ecuador cruised to a 2-0 triumph, condemning the host nation to an opening-day defeat for the first time in history.
However, despite the stadium holding 60,000 spectators, the official attendance figure for the opener was announced as a staggering 67,372 – a baffling feat, even without the empty seats in mind. But that was the first of many as the trend continued into the tournament’s second day.
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Plenty of spare seats were scattered around the 40,000-capacity Khalifa International Stadium as England started their campaign with a 6-2 win against Iran on Monday. Many fans missed kick-off after ticketing issues, but even the late-comers didn’t fill the ground. FIFA’s official attendance stood at 45,334, though.
Netherlands and Senegal clashed at the Al Thumama Stadium next, where the lack of fans present was even more apparent than in the previous two games as Louis van Gaal’s side snatched a late 2-0 win. But despite the Doha venue holding 40,000, 41,721 was the official attendance number that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
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Wales’ 1-1 draw against the USA rounded off Monday’s action, where 43,000 fans were apparently inside the 40,000 Ahmad bin Ali Stadium. And with more no-shows visible, FIFA’s explanation that some of the stadiums have an increased capacity in ‘event mode’ has done little to convince that the attendance numbers are real.
The 2022 World Cup has been engulfed in controversy ever since then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced the Gulf state as the host in 2010. And the questionable attendance records so far have only intensified questions aimed at the governing body.
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