Indian fans in numbers despite team`s loss in Asian Cup
Doha: The Al Saad Stadium here on Monday looked like a venue in India as a large expatriate crowd from subcontinent turned up to cheer the national team in their opening match of the Asian Cup football tournament here.
A near capacity crowd at the stadium which can accommodate 13,5000 people cheered the Indian team in their every move and shouted down the Australians whenever they committed a foul and made threatening moves.
The Indian supporters completely outnumbered those of Australia and several fans were seen waving Indian tri colour with some carrying placards -- one writing `I love India`.
Despite India losing the match, the crowd kept supporting the players till the end.
The tickets of the Group C opening match were sold out but the official number of spectators recored during the encounter was 9783.
Nearly 40 per cent of Qatar population of around 16 lakh are Indian expatriate.
"The tickets of the match have been sold out and we are very happy. The ticket rates are Qatari Riyal 40 for category one, QR 25 for category 2 and QR 15 for category 3. Family pack costs QR 25 and all children can get ticket for QR 5, Khalid Abdullah, venue manager at Al Saad Stadium, told reporters.
India have been participating in the Asian Cup after a gap of 27 years after winning the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.
The tournament opener between the hosts and Uzbekistan was played in front of a capacity crowd at magnificent Al Khalifa Stadium but after that there had been lukewarm response from the people with stadiums barely half full.
Saturday`s Group A game between Kuwait and China officially drew a crowd of 7,400 in a 22,000-seater stadium. 11,000 tickets had been sold for that match.
The Group B matches between Japan and Jordan and between Saudi Arabia and Syria were barely half-full. The first match at 12,500 Qatar Sports Club ground was played in front of around 6000 spectators while the second at the 22,000-capacity Al Rayyan Stadium was watched by around 9,000 people.
The local organisers are finding out ways to bring in people at the stadia though they are are unduly concerned.
AFC Competition Director Tokuoki Suzuki said the price of the tickets are not the reason for poor attendance and said the organisers need to encourage people to come out and watch football.
"I was not disappointed with the number of fans. The average attendance in the Qatar league in 2009 was 3,000 and last year it was 4,000.
"We believe the price of tickets is very reasonable. Ticket prices are not the reason why people are not coming but we need to encourage people to come to stadium," he said.