FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: India’s Football Craze Boosted by Sports Tourism Market

Despite the fact that Indian team hasn’t made it to the FIFA World Cup, Indian football fans will travel to Qatar to witness the sporting spectacle. More than 23,500 of the 1.8 million Qatar World Cup 2022 tickets sold in the first two phases were purchased by Indian football enthusiasts. India was ranked eighth in ticket consumption after the first phase of ticketing for the football fiesta.

During the last edition of FIFA in 2018, India had nearly 18,000 fans in attendance in Russia. The sub-continent had the third most fans in Russia among non-competing countries, after only the United States and China.

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So, what motivates fans of a country whose women’s team is ranked 58th while their men’s squad is ranked 104th and has never competed in a World Cup to go to the world’s largest sporting spectacle in such large numbers?

Though on a national level, India’s football scenario looks quite dismal. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) funding was reported to have been cut by 85 per cent in May 2022. The funding cut was justified by the men’s team’s poor performance, a lack of organization in the women’s game, a lack of sales of tickets in prominent stadiums, and insufficient growth at the grassroots level.

Last month, FIFA temporarily banned India due to third-party interference. The ban has now been lifted. But all these factors do not mean that the nation is alien to the sport of football.

A YouGov research conducted in January this year on behalf of the Indian Super League team FC Goa revealed that there are 160 million football enthusiasts in India. The love for the sport is undeniably present. It is simply an issue of where it’s being directed.

The primary reason for such an outflow of fans to the Qatar World Cup could be the fact that this would be the closest proximity in which the World Cup has been held as compared to the other editions. Many of the Indian cities are just 3-4 hour flights away from Doha.

More than 750,000 Indians live in Qatar, accounting for around one-quarter of the population. There is a distinct category for Qatar residents, with tickets beginning at 40 riyals ($11 or 876 Indian rupees), and they are permitted to invite non-residents as guests.

Sports tourism has become a lucrative market in recent years, with many new entrants. DreamSetGo, a firm that attempts to merge sports and luxurious travel, was founded in 2019 by prominent Indian fantasy company Dream11. In 2015, Bharat Army, the famous Indian cricket fans organization that follows the team in great numbers across the world, formed its own sports tourism wing named Bharat Army Travel & Tours.

The figures back up this excitement. According to a Thrillophilia report, adventure and experience tourism are expected to increase at a compared annual growth rate of 17.4 per cent from 2017 to 2023. All these reasons have contributed significantly to the Indians flocking to witness the World Cup along with the desire to get a glimpse of their favourite players in live action.

Although India will not be participating in the World Cup, Indians will once again be present in large numbers in the stands for the FIFA World Cup.

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