DOHA: Hundreds of fans from South Asia and South America greeted Neymar and his teammates as the Brazil squad landed in Qatar for their bid to secure a sixth World Cup.
Drum-beating Indians who have already made their mark on the tournament left Brazilians in a minority outside the luxury Doha hotel that will be the Selecao’s base for the tournament.
“Why do neutral fans support Brazil? Because they are the best in the world,” said Kelly Dias, a Brazilian who runs a cosmetics business in Madrid and is spending three weeks in Qatar.
“You can see it in the streets. Brazil are the favourites,” added the 39-year-old.
The tens of thousands of Indian football fans in Qatar are mainly divided between Argentina and Qatar.
As with Argentina’s arrival, the Brazil fans got only a fleeting glimpse of their heroes as the team bus with tinted windows drove by without stopping.
Every night the fans organise rival flash mobs in Doha where hundreds beat drums and wave the Argentinian and Brazilian flags. Smaller groups have backed England and other European nations.
The Indian contingent was joined by Brazil fans from Bangladesh and Arab nations as they waited for more than three hours outside the hotel late Saturday.
Lijo Mathew, 24, said he waited because he wanted to see Neymar. Others wore yellow shirts with Neymar’s name written across the back.
The Indians, mainly from Kerala state, are angry at European media reports calling them “fake fans”. Qatar organisers have also slammed the reports.
“There are a lot of fans in Kerala,” said Haneef, who runs a public relations firm in Doha.
“They love Neymar, they love Brazil, because, you know, India is not good at football,” she said.
Haneef said she fell for the Brazil team when they last won the title in Japan in 2002.
Others are sure Brazil will triumph again on the tournament’s return to Asia.
“This is going to be our sixth world title,” said Badrudeen.
The South Americans arrived from Turin where they have been based with coach Tite for the last week.
They were the last of the 32 nations to arrive for the tournament that starts Sunday with the Qatar-Ecuador opening game.
Knocked out by Belgium in the quarter-finals in 2018, Brazil open their campaign against Serbia on Thursday.