Al Jazeera Close Up

‘Don’t call me a fake fan’

These Indian fans in Qatar are mad for Messi’s Argentina.

India may be crazy about cricket, but Indians from the southern state of Kerala follow football religiously, and in Qatar, their allegiance is to Argentina or Brazil.

India has never qualified for the World Cup, so for years, people in Kerala have supported foreign teams to slake their thirst for international football action. “Every kid in Kerala grows up following a Latin American team. Our parents used to watch Argentinian and Brazilian matches. As a five- or six-year-old, we watched those matches with them, so it’s in our blood now,” says Sujeendran, one of the lead drummers in the Argentina fan club band.

Originally from India, Sujeendran is one of more than 5,000 die-hard Argentina football fans living in Qatar. Many of them are from countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and claim their love for Messi has no limits. “We’re all suffering for Argentina. We have jobs and then come to practice, all this is done for Argentina…. To be called fake fans really hurts,” says Sujeendran when recounting how fans like him have been questioned on whether they are really Argentina football fans or just being paid to promote the tournament.

“The whole idea of football or any other sport is to connect the human spirit and spread love. No one should spread hatred by calling others fake. Everyone should be allowed to follow their heart.”

In this episode of Close Up, we spend time with Sujeendran and his legion of passionate fans as they cheerfully support Argentina every step of this World Cup.


A film by Gautam Singh

Cinematographers – Gautam Singh and Shahinur Alam

Film Editor – Jameel Hodzic

Colourist – Kishore Kanchan

Audio Post – Linus Bergman

Executive Producer: Tierney Bonini