The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Qatar last month amid controversies of various kinds. From the allegations of corruption and bribery in selecting a tiny Middle East nation as host to the violation of human rights and labor malpractices, the world’s biggest single-sport tournament has been marred with a slew of scandals.
Misinformation is also running amok about it online. Various posts and old videos have been shared with misleading and outright false claims on social media. Some were as harmless as the Saudi Prince announcing Rolls Royce cars for every player of their winning team against Argentina and some were riddled with communal claims such as Islamic conversions happening during the opening ceremony of the tournament.
Although the Indian soccer team is not playing in the world cup, Indian fans are as excited as anyone in the world. That may be the reason for the soccer world cup getting huge traction on social media in India. It also led to the peddling of political and hateful misinformation about it.
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Since the world cup is organized in a strict Islamic country, the misinformation shared across the internet had a communal theme running through it.
At the beginning of the tournament, Indian fugitive preacher Zakir Naik was spotted in Qatar. He is a wanted fugitive on charges of money laundering and hate speech in India.
On this backdrop, an Indian news channel shared a video with an audacious claim that Zakir Naik converted four people to Islam during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
We found that the video in question is old and not related to the ongoing FIFA World Cup. The video dates back to 2016 when four people accepted Islam after attending a lecture of Zakir Naik in Doha. It resurfaced with a false claim. (Read)
A video of a huge crowd offering Namaz on the ground was also peddled as an incident that took place in FIFA World Cup. As it turned out, that 2019 video is from Kazan Stadium in Russia. It is falsely linked to Qatar. (Read)
Similarly, another video of a group of kids reading the Quran on a soccer field went viral from the opening ceremony of the World Cup. This is also false news. Those kids were reciting the Quran verses at the inauguration of the Al Thumama stadium last year. The old video resurfaced with an utterly misleading claim. (Read)
Social media users went too far when they shared a video allegedly showing Saudi defender Ali Al-Bulayhi asking Lionel Messi to embrace Islam if he wants to go to heaven.
Of course, the video was digitally altered. Bulayhi did not ask any such thing of Messi. Audio from another clip was added to the original video of Ali and Messi. (Read)
The confusion over what is allowed and what is not during the World Cup in Qatar seems to be not settling down anytime soon. Qatar’s government is facing a huge backlash for its stance on homosexuality and human rights. It is also being accused of having double standards when it comes to political protests. It has been reported that people are not allowed to show any kind of support to Palestine or protesters in Iran.
Amid all of it, a video showing supporters singing in support of Palestine and waving Palestinian flags has been shared as from Qatar stadium.
“First time in world’s History,” reads the viral post. “Whole Qatar FIFA stadium sang together unitedly in favor of Palestine against Jews and Israel.”
In reality, the viral video dates back to 2019. It is from Mohammed V stadium in Morocco where supporters of Raja Casablanca expressed their support during their team’s game against the Palestinian team Hilal Al-Quds. (Read)
Rolls Royce for Saudi Players
Not many people may have thought Saudi Arabia had any chance against mighty Argentina on 22 November. But in a surprise move, Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina by 2-1. Saudi Arabian government even declared a national holiday the next day to celebrate the unexpected victory of their team.
On the heels of it came the reports that Saudi Prince Mohammad Bin Sulthan (MBS) would give Rolls-Royce cars to each player. It has been published by many leading newspapers – that too without citing any authentic source.
When asked about it in a press conference, Saudi player Saleh Alshehri clarified that he was not aware of any such announcement. He emphasized that the rumors are false and that serving his country is the only reward he needs.
Saudi Arabia Coach Hervé Renard also debunked rumors of luxury cars gifted by the royal family.
“There is nothing true about this,” he told to New York Post. “We have a very serious federation and ministry of sport and it is not the time to get something at this moment. We only have played one game, have two very important [group stage] games and we are hoping for some more.” (Read)
Fire at Stadium
A video of the fire erupting in the stadium has been widely circulated with a claim that a major fire broke out during the FIFA World Cup game.
FACT: This old video is from Germany where fans of Hamburg soccer club protested against the club’s relegation from the Bundesliga in 2018. (Read)
Doubts on Japanese Goodness
Japanese fans are rightfully winning hearts by voluntarily cleaning the stadium after the game. But some internet users were not so much enamored with the Japanese goodness. Maybe that is why images of a messy dressing room were doing rounds on social media claiming the Japanese team left their dressing room in such bad condition after the match with Costa Rica.
FACT: It was Italy’s dressing room after they lost a match to North Macedonia in March earlier this year. Images are not from the FIFA World Cup. (Read)
PM Modi Gift Kit
The sporting event was also used for political misinformation. A Minority Morcha President of the ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tweeted an image that showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photo on a gift kit for the spectators.
FACT: The viral image was fabricated and digitally altered. In fact, the original image was of a gift kit given to the people who came to watch the soccer matches in World Cup. Those gift bags do not bear images of PM Modi on them. (Read)
The tournament will conclude on 18 December. So we expect more misinformation will be coming our way in the coming days.