It's just not cricket: Australian and Indian fans have World Cup football fever

Fans in both cricket-mad countries will soon swap wickets for goal posts to enjoy the showpiece event in Qatar

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Cricket may dominate the sporting landscapes of India and Australia but for four weeks the attention of millions of football fans in both nations will turn towards the Qatar World Cup.

Those living in Dubai and Indian tourists planning a trip to Doha will be among the thousands of fans visiting Qatar from Sunday, November 20.

One of them is Australian Michael Beverly, a Dubai resident who works in investment, and he will be cheering on the Socceroos with his wife and son.

“One of the reasons I want to support the team is because of the sacrifices they made during Covid-19,” he said.

“There were no qualifying games at home because the country was under lockdown in the pandemic.

“I want to go and support them because the sacrifices they had to make cannot be diminished.”

A World Cup so close to the UAE where he now lives made the tournament a rare opportunity to see his home side in the flesh.

Another World Cup adventure for Aussie aficionado

Australian Michael Beverly in a party mood at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Photo: Michael Beverly

With tickets already in the bag for matches against France, Tunisia and Denmark, it is likely to be an exciting couple of weeks.

This will not be the first time he has followed the national team, as he also visited Germany for the 2006 World Cup.

“I had tickets to the finals in 2010 and 2014 in South Africa and Brazil but could not make it, so I am really looking forward to this,” said Mr Beverly, 50.

“My 11-year-old son is coming along for his first World Cup, along with my wife, so it should be special.”

“I’m really excited because it’s so convenient.

“I rarely get a chance to go and see them play because it’s a 14-hour-flight home.

“Supporting Australia has been a constant in my life, ever since I was 6.

“I would be pleasantly surprised if we got through to the next round as France and Denmark are tough teams and Tunisia won’t be easy opponents either.

“I would be happy to see them win a few games but I would be absolutely stunned if they did.”

Indian fan rooting for Ronaldo

Software engineer Kunal Sharma from New Delhi has saved up for months to splash out on a trip to Doha to watch his hero Cristiano Ronaldo play. Image: Kunal Sharma

Meanwhile, although the Indian cricket team is performing on the biggest stage at the current T20 World Cup in Australia, its national football team has never qualified to play in the football equivalent.

That has left football fans across India free to choose a team to get behind and temporarily adopt a nation to support during the tournament in Qatar.

Software developer Kunal Sharma from New Delhi has saved up for months to splash out on a trip to Doha to watch his hero Cristiano Ronaldo play in what will probably be his last World Cup.

Mr Sharma, 22, will be supporting Portugal and fancies their chances to go all the way.

“I am supporting Portugal because I am a big Ronaldo fan, I’ve supported them in every international tournament since I started watching football,” he said.

“As my own country is not there, I always have to choose one of the other teams to feel part of it.

“My expectations are no less than winning the World Cup, as it's Ronaldo’s last opportunity to get his hands on football’s most prestigious trophy and finish his career winning every possible title he played for.”

Mr Sharma scooped his tickets in the Fifa resale ballot, and secured seats for Brazil against Serbia, Argentina versus Mexico and best of all — Portugal’s clash with Uruguay on November 28 at Lusail Stadium.

At Dh800 each, his six-day trip is not cheap.

So far, he has spent about $7,000 on flights and an apartment in Rawdat Al Khail that he will share with his parents.

“I know it is really difficult for Portugal to win, considering teams like Brazil, Argentina, France, England and Germany all have significantly better squads.

“Realistically making the semi-finals would be a great result, but you never know considering they won the Euro 2016 being the underdogs.”

Football lovers ready for Qatar World Cup — in pictures

Updated: November 01, 2022, 10:50 AM