African diaspora cheer on Doha athletics championships

DOHA Dozens of African running fans lined Doha's

seafront to glimpse their countrymen vie for gold in the World Athletics

Championships men's marathon, singing loudly and brandishing national flags.

At the halfway point, all six of the leaders were from Africa, and

Ethiopians were first and second across the line while a Kenyan picked up

bronze following the midnight event.

We just came here to celebrate our athletes, from Laban Korir on, they're

our Kenyans! We want to make them feel at home, said Cornelius Bor ahead of

the race which finished in the early hours of Sunday.

Bor's friend Elliot Kirwa, a runner turned security officer, said we are

supposed to sleep, we are supposed to go to work but we had to come and

cheer them.

My duty is 4:00 a.m. but I will first finish watching them, then I will

go there and I'm so happy, so proud of them, added Bor who then chanted

one, two, three Kenya!.

(On Sunday) we have 10,000m, Julius Yego in the javelin. He will clear

Khalifa stadium!

Nearby another group of men chanted and danced in unison, draping the

Kenyan colours over an advertising hoarding.

Kenya's Amos Kipruto, who won bronze, told AFP his countrymen gave me

morale.

This medal I dedicate to all my fans in Doha, he said. When I win,

Kenyans win.

Many other migrant workers turned out in force to support runners from

their native countries at the event which saw Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa win

gold in two hours 10 minutes 40 seconds.

'We feel at home'

Kenyans make up roughly 30,000 of Qatar's 2.6 million population and are

often employed as security guards while Ethiopians number around 25,000

according to official statistics.

Kenyans were among a number of nations whose embassies in Doha handed out

free tickets to their citizens following dismal crowds in the championships'

opening days.

We feel at home, said Bor, a security officer.

Even more African supporters would have been able to attend if not for the

tournament's late start times, often after 10:00 p.m. (1900 GMT) for finals,

according to some diaspora members.

They put it at night and guys are working. At night time I don't think

they made it. A few people (did), but not too much, said Wilson Mwenji, a

former runner from Nairobi resident in Doha for four years, as he prepared to

watch the women's marathon on September 27.

But Mercy, another Kenyan living in Qatar, said the championships had been

very well organised as she walked past the main track venue, Doha's Khalifa

stadium.

I love the fact that it is in the city and security is very amazing too.

Kenya have been doing great, we got a gold medal for the men's 3,000m

steeplechase, she told AFP. It's been great.

International Association of Athletics Federations president Sebastian Coe

has said he wants to ensure athletics are not just rooted in a handful of

European capitals but the flagship event has never been staged in Africa.

Athletics and road races in particular are hugely popular on the continent

and have fewer barriers to entry compared to other sports.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)