Searching (in vain) for “Mbappé mania” on the streets of Doha

From our special envoy in Doha,

Kyky, at home in Doha? In the many months that preceded the extension of Kylian Mbappé’s contract at PSG, owned by Qatar Sport Investment, this was one of the concrete arguments put forward by the media specializing in the mysteries of the Parisian club: it was out of the question that the little Emirate could let slip his nugget in Real Madrid, which should be the beachhead of Qatar and its Winter World Cup. Arriving in Doha a week ago, we fancied seeing the face of the Bondy kid displayed all over the capital.

However, from what we have seen so far, it has been difficult to find the slightest hint that the French forward is a local pride. The only Parisian face seen here is that of Neymar, muse of the Qatar National Bank, who appears almost everywhere, from the advertising screens installed in the subway trains to the buildings that populate the center of Doha. One wonders what the player thinks, who we know is very attentive to her image. In short, does he really mind being squeezed by his employer, especially after the media campaign that Qatar has been subjected to in recent months? I’m not at all sure.

An anomaly if we think back to the pride of Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, on the verge of the hula-hoop on the stage of the Parc des Princes at the announcement of the extension of the French in the French capital. To find out for sure, however, we decided to go on an expedition in search of “Mbappé mania”, the Hechter PSG shirt on the back to attract customers and facilitate contact with the hypothetical local fans of the French club and its number 7.

Neymar is the face of the Qatar National Bank. -AYMERIC LE GALL

“But where are you French? »

First astonishment upon exiting the Mshereib metro, a sort of local Châtelet-les-Halles, less smell of urine and more fountains illuminated by multicolored floodlights, no trace of Parisian or French shirts, and therefore no Mbappé shirts. Thousands of fans from all over the world, but not even a French. And that’s not a figure of speech, not a hair.

In traditional dress, cigarette in mouth, a Saudi challenges us: “But where are the French? All the countries are represented, look, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Morocco, Cameroon, but you? “. We reply that we are here, but that a blue shirt is clearly missing. But this is not our topic, thank you sir, we will continue our investigation without concessions.

Finally, at the bend in a road, who do you meet? About Clément d’Antibes, rooster in hand, replying in bad English to a Qatari journalist who must be wondering who this funny character is carrying his evening meal under his arm. We take the opportunity to ask him the question of the (non) fuss around Mbappé. The topic doesn’t seem to fascinate him any more and we even suspect that he replied “he’s the best player in the world! » so that he can then reverse the roles and point the microphone under the muzzle.

Clément d'Antibes, the most famous fan of the French team, in the alleys of Souk Waqif.
Clément d’Antibes, the most famous fan of the French team, in the alleys of Souk Waqif. -AYMERIC LE GALL

So here we are caught despite ourselves in a report for Al-Kass Sports Channel, questioned about the welcome we have received since our arrival. Very well, thank you sir, but we still have one story to wrap up and the investigation is stalled. The colleague, whom his cameraman describes as an “icon” among Qatari journalists, ends up telling us about a shop where we could find a Kyky T-shirt. “I know Nasser, I can tell him about you, he laughs before warning us:“ PSG is from Qatar, not French! “.

Qatar Premier League and La Liga fans

A few minutes later, luck finally turns. Canal+-era PSG (fake) shirt on his shoulders, Ahmed walks leisurely with a friend dressed in traditional Dishdasha. Finally we will have the beginning of an answer. “If Mbappé is loved in Qatar? Yes of course. We didn’t spend 500 million euros not to support him! he laughs. But beyond the economic aspect, what do you think of the player? We don’t understand much. If he welcomes the player’s extension to Paris, it is above all for the pleasure of “seeing Florentino Perez cry”.

Tifa PSG and Mbappé because it has to, however it is the property of the emir. But he only watches a few matches of the Parisian team. “PSG-OM, PSG-Lyon, that’s all. I mostly watch the Premier League, I watch all the matches. I’m a Manchester United fan! “, he enthuses (finally). Next door, his friend, also a Qatari, supports … Manchester City. A heresy when it is known that the Skyblues are owned by the United Arab Emirates, historical enemies of Qatar, despite the recent diplomatic warm-up between the Gulf countries. I promise you, we’ll keep it to ourselves, my friend.

Descending towards Doha Bay, three friends from Qatar, Omar, Abdullah and Hussein stroll along the ledge. No one is a PSG fan, but everyone says they love the player. When asked if they watched the Blues game on Tuesday, the pouts speak volumes. “Mbappé he scored two goals, no,” asks one of them. Missed, only one. The extension of the French to PSG? They validate him above all for the humiliation of Real that he has generated. Ah yes, the three friends are Barça fans.

We’ve received dozens of responses like this during our trip. No real Mbappé or PSG fans among the locals. Without going as far as to say that it emanates a trend, there is still some of that. It’s 4pm, the sun isn’t very high anymore and it’s time to get back on the subway and go train for France. Along the way, we try one last shot. Settled quietly on the terrace of a café, also dressed in Dishdasha, a boy in his thirties replies. “Ah yes, I love Mbappé, what he does on the pitch is just incredible! For us in Saudi Arabia, Mbappé is a real star, ahead of Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar. Ah yes, a small detail that is important, Ammar is Saudi…

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