Published on :
Since the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a rather special group of supporters has been making headlines: they are Indian and support the French team. Accused of being false supporters, the members of the “French Football Fans Club India” have a very real love for the blue jersey. Meet.
There are love at first sight that cannot be explained. Love stories that are born despite the distance between people who do not seem on paper destined to meet. The passion for the French team is no exception as evidenced by the existence of the “French Football Fans Club India”, an Indian association of supporters of the Blues which has been creating buzz since the start of the World Cup. Accused of being fake supporters paid by Qatar, they display a real passion for football, like their feelings for Kylian Mbappé’s accelerations or Olivier Giroud’s goals.
“The accusations made us sad. We are a real organization, which has existed since 2013. We have links with the Inréductibles Français [l’association officielle de supporters des Bleus, NLDR]. I even met them during the World Cup in Russia”, defends Thoufeer Kaitha Valappil, the president of the group.
The atypical fan club is however well and truly adopted by all. On the sidelines of the France team matches, it is not uncommon to see some French supporters come and take selfies with these fans who have made the headlines. And to sing with them a few songs, “Allez les Bleus!”, “la Marseillaise!”… The pronunciation is almost perfect. “We learned it phonetically”, confides the president, jersey of the France team specially signed with the name of the fan club.
On social networks like Instagram where they are very active, nearly 6,000 people follow their incessant photomontages. The fan club claims 3,000 members with their card. 260 of whom came to Doha to follow the French team. Many already live there or in the Gulf countries but some have moved from Kerala. This southwestern region of India is one of the few areas in the country where the popularity of football rivals that of the national sport, cricket.
“Zidane, the magician”
All give the same date of birth to their passion: a certain July 12, 1998, this hot summer evening when the French team beat Brazil 3 to 0 to win their first star. The images of Zinedine Zidane triumphing, of Laurent Blanc embracing the bald head of Fabien Barthez, then imprinted themselves in the eyes of the French, but also, curiously, in those of the children of several villages in Kerala.
“I remember it perfectly, smiles Noufal Moochikoottahil, jersey of the victorious campaign of Russia on the back and French scarf in the air. I was 12, there was a TV to watch the 1998 World Cup. It was my brother who took me. It was with him that I watched the final. He was not for France but against Brazil and he yelled “ZIDANE!!!” on his first goal. Since then, Zidane has remained there, close to my heart.
“Now I try to watch all the matches. If it’s not aired, I look for them on the Internet. And when I can’t find them, I look at all the summaries on YouTube”, describes the football enthusiast.
Just like his companions, the 36-year-old young man, an engineer in Doha, is capable of expounding for hours on the history of the Blues since the first star: “the wonderful golden goal of Trezeguet during Euro-2000” , “the demonstration of Zidane’s magic feet against Brazil in 2006”, “the strike of Pavard against Argentina in 2018” “the goal of Mbappé in the final in Russia”.
“It broke my heart”
“I remember the latter very well. I was in front of a giant screen installed by Qatar for the final. Since that day, my daughter has become a fan of Mbappé. The love for France has been passed on to another generation,” smiles Noufal. “When Mbappé came to Qatar [dans le cadre d’une tournée avec le PSG], I managed to get a selfie and an autograph. I showed them to my daughter and she cried,” he explains, scrolling through the pictures of players on his mobile.
He too has already cried for the France team. It was a certain July 9, 2006, the day of the World Cup final in Germany:
“I also have bad memories with the France team, like Zidane’s red card in the final. It broke my heart. Why did Materazzi do this to Zidane?” he recalls.
From Kerala to Doha
Thanks to this World Cup in Qatar, Noufa and most of the members of the fan club were finally able to realize their dream of seeing the French team play. A first for all, except the founding president, Thoufeer, who had already been able to go to Russia to see the Blues play. A banner reading “I traveled 7,600 km to see Zidane’s heirs play” almost caused him problems with the Russian authorities, until the solidarity between French supporters saved him: Hervé Mougin , the president of Les Irrésistibles français, then interceded on his behalf.
This year, he hopes to be able to follow the adventures of the Blues to the end, judging the trip easier than in Russia:
“A tenth of Kerala’s population lives in Qatar. Imagine a house with a family of 10. Well, there’s bound to be one living in the Gulf. Certainly it is expensive but compared to European fans, we manage to save the cost of accommodation, ”he says.
These atypical supporters have stood out on many occasions. First during a parade organized on the corniche, the seafront of Doha, half real, half staged by Qatar before the World Cup. But above all, they are the ones who welcomed the players of the French team to their hotel on their arrival: they were there long before the French supporters joined Doha. Olivier Giroud, the now top scorer in the history of the French men’s team, even joked about them: “It’s always nice to feel welcomed like that. I didn’t know that the Indians supported the team. of France, it is a weight given that they are a billion”, had declared the attacker.
“It shows a deep misunderstanding. I don’t think Olivier Giroud suspected it, but France has fans all over the world,’ explains its president.
Like every match day, he will be there with his family to give voice during France-England. And if possible beyond…
The World Cup in Qatar beyond football: