Despite criticism and controversy, the small Gulf emirate has already won its bet: to place itself at the center of the world map.
A few years ago, would you have even known where Qatar was? Today, the whole world speaks, for good and bad, of the host country of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The sporting “soft power” winning card
Admittedly, there was no lack of criticism regarding the working conditions for building stadiums and hotels for this World Cup with a huge budget of more than 250 billion euros. Environmental aspects, between air conditioning and fan transfer flights between matches, have also caused a lot of ink to flow. But the elimination from the group stages of the Qatar team is basically of little importance, as the small Gulf country has already achieved its goal: to be at the center of the diplomatic and sporting map.
Among the first to play the sports card to refine its image, the small oil and gas emirate played the sporting “soft power” card, both increasing the number of major events organized at home, and investing abroad, associating cultural sponsorship and sports buyouts, starting with the Parisian club Paris Saint-Germain. So much so that after the long years of the blockade imposed by its Saudi neighbor and the United Arab Emirates, it is today Qatar that is at the center of the map of Arab countries, and of world attention.
The All-Arab World Cup
Sporting competition has indeed taken over the political competition, Saudi Arabia can only see how sport has enabled the small emirate to establish itself as a new economic and diplomatic power in the world. It is now up to the Saudi emirate to follow, to copy the example of Qatar to rework its place and its image on the world map. Qatar is certainly a small country, but its gas exports are very strategic.
We will even have already seen during the 2002 World Cup Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sporting the Qatar scarf during the opening ceremony on Sunday. But also the Emir of Qatar, Tamim ben Hamad Al-Thani, with the Saudi flag around his neck, during the incredible victory of Hervé Renard’s men against Argentina… Would Qatar, therefore, have become, thanks to football, the new center of gravity for Arab countries? It is indeed he who welcomes all the African and Maghreb countries to his home. Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Morocco are the joy of the supporters present at the Qataris on the occasion of this first football World Cup in an Arab country. This “All Arab World Cup” is in itself already the greatest of victories.
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