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The Scotland World Cup supporters leaving their imprint

Due to the men’s team’s continued absence from the World Cup finals, the majority of Scotland supporters have been occupying a familiar spot on the couch.

Even though the team hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1998, some Tartan Army members have nevertheless travelled to Qatar to see the game.

Despite practical, monetary, and ethical issues, saltires and kilts have been seen at the Fifa competition.

Since 1982, Aberdeen native Brian Hendry has seen nine men’s World Cups, but he has only seen Scotland compete at four of them.

Five pals from the Granite City who are all in their 60s are visiting Brian in Doha with him.

No Scotland, no party?

“We’re here just to watch football,” he tells BBC Scotland. “Supporting France one day, Brazil the next, Mexico the next, America a few times.

“If Scotland can’t be there why not watch the best?”

Brian says he and his kilt-wearing friends have been mobbed at games by international fans who want a picture of Scotland’s national dress.

“They love them,” he says. “It’s hundreds of photos at every game. Hundreds – and it’s people from all nationalities.”

Brian Hendry, left, and his friends combined tartan with the stars and stripes at a USA game

Brian, a retired theatre worker, has primarily been backing the USA due to family ties in the country.

He says: “Scotland have been at the World Cup quite a few times but it doesn’t matter if they’re not.

“It makes it better if we’re here but if they’re not it’s still great football.”

Among those welcoming the travelling Tartan Army members is Zoe Clark, who moved to Doha from Aberdeen two years ago.

She lives there with her two sons and husband Michael, who runs Qatar’s Scotland supporters club.

“For Scotland fans, obviously we haven’t experienced a World Cup for a long, long time and it was almost within touching distance this year,” Zoe says.

“So to see people then coming over and still being able to enjoy it has been incredible.”

Discounted tickets have been offered to Qatar residents, with Zoe and her family taking in games featuring Senegal, Netherlands, France, Spain and other World Cup heavyweights.

They also hope to get tickets for the final at the Lusail Stadium on 18 December.

Her son, Cameron, 12, was also selected as a flag bearer for Brazil’s opening match against Serbia.

Qatar 2022’s World Cup has, however, probably more than any other, been dominated by ethical issues.

In Qatar, homosexual actions are prohibited and can result in fines, jail time, or even the death by stoning.

Along with the venues, Amnesty claims that since the country was given the right to host the World Cup in 2010, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have been subjected to violations of their human rights.

This World Cup, according to World Cup veteran Brian, has been “wonderfully organized” for the spectators, who have taken advantage of “brilliant” weather and “magnificent” stadiums.

However, he continues, “We visit the stadiums and we consider the workers. That needs to be resolved.

“Then LGBT rights. Of course we’re aware of that and can support that but we’ve also got to remember there are teams here that don’t support it.”

He believes sporting events can help “shine a light” on such issues.

“They have to be handled, have to be highlighted and hopefully sport can do that, and it has to be done in the right way,” Brian says. “Now is the time.”

Qatar 2022 chief executive Nasser al Khater has said laws on homosexuality will not change and visitors should “respect our culture”.

“Few countries have come so far so quickly, and Qatar now leads the region on labour rights,” a spokesman for the government said.

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