Qatar’s Road to the Most Expensive World Cup

  Bearing the controversy and pressure of “Golden Dollar Football”, Qatar finally ushered in the first World Cup held in the Arab world.
  The World Cup, held for the first time in the winter of the northern hemisphere, is also “the most expensive one”. Qatar has invested about 300 billion U.S. dollars for it. Less than a week before the opening of the 2022 World Cup, Blatter, the former FIFA president who announced that Qatar had won the right to host, publicly stated that choosing Qatar was “a mistake.” Due to bidding corruption, labor and other issues, this is another “most controversial World Cup”.
  FIFA President Infantino predicts that the global audience of this World Cup may exceed 5 billion people, an increase of 1.4 billion people compared with the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Nnamdi Medici, a senior researcher at the Bloomsbury Institute in London, told that the Emir (Supreme Leader) of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is realizing his Goal: “Let everyone in the world who knows football spell ‘Qatar’.”
  ”The 2022 World Cup has brought many doubts to FIFA, and Qatar has also been affected by it. They never thought they would suffer so much. Criticism.” Former FIFA spokesperson Guido Donnioni said in an interview , “However, once the curtain opens, everything will focus on the game, and the problems behind the scenes will no longer matter. .”
An unsuccessful “stress test”

  Twenty kilometers north of Doha, the capital of Qatar, the Lusail Stadium is placed on the coast of the Persian Gulf like an Arabian golden bowl. On December 18, the 2022 FIFA World Cup final will be held in this stadium that can accommodate 80,000 spectators. This day is also the National Day of Qatar.
  Just two months before the official opening of this World Cup, the government conducted a “stress test” on the Lusail Stadium: On September 9, 2022, more than 77,000 people flocked here to watch the “Lusail Super Cup” Saudi team game against Egypt. After the most-attended football match in Qatar’s history, it turned out that the tests were not successful: the shuttle bus between the car park and the stadium was poorly arranged, and many spectators were forced to walk for nearly an hour in the heat; , There was a “water shortage” in the stadium, and both piped water and bottled water were exhausted. The same incredible problem was the air conditioner malfunctioning. Those who participated in the test said to Simon Chadwick, a professor at the French Skelma Business School who was invited as a consultant to participate in the bid for the World Cup in Qatar: “This is not a small problem, but a serious problem.”
  Such a scene seems familiar: in 2006, The Doha Asian Games, which was also held in Qatar, had just ended the wonderful opening ceremony. The government was caught off guard by the heavy rain, the scene was out of order, and the traffic was interrupted. People had to trek without wading, and some athletes stayed in the rain for more than 30 minutes. Later, an IOC source who returned to the hotel drenched said the incident had cost Doha its bid to host the 2016 Games. Now, Qatar is preparing for the 2030 Doha Asian Games and plans to bid for more international events.
  For Qatar, there are many hurdles to jump over to host a World Cup. The first problem is the weather. Although in December 2010, at the FIFA Executive Committee meeting to determine the host of the 2022 World Cup, no voter mentioned the topic of weather, but the investigation report released by FIFA later pointed out that the evaluation report issued on the eve of the meeting has clearly mentioned During Qatar’s regular World Cup summer competition cycle, “the average temperature is rarely lower than 37°C”, and the Qatar bid team stated that it can “develop new cooling technologies”.
  But without waiting for the birth of “new cooling technology”, FIFA set up a working group in October 2013 to study how to change the World Cup schedule for Qatar’s weather: avoid summer, avoid Ramadan, and avoid the Winter Olympics, And according to FIFA rules, the game will be completed within the 2022 calendar year. November to December has become the only possible choice, even if it means that the Christmas holidays in Europe and the United States are approaching, and it means that major clubs have to let their main players leave the team during the season. Broadcasters pay compensation for rescheduling.
  The weather problem is only the prologue to a series of difficulties, and the easiest of them to solve. Chadwick pointed out to that although Qatar has hosted one Asian Games and many World Championships, the difference between the World Cup and most games lies in the scale. “Building and operating a main stadium is different from building, Running an overcrowded football stadium with 8 to 12 people is not a concept.” Crowding and chaos almost always occur in every World Cup. In the year when Qatar bid for the World Cup, a stampede occurred during the 2010 World Cup warm-up match in South Africa, and many people were injured. In May of this year, tens of thousands of fans broke out during the final of the UEFA Champions League in France, and more than 100 people were arrested. Fortunately, no serious casualties were caused.
  For Qatar, which currently has a permanent population of less than 3 million, the problem is even more serious. It is estimated that 1.2 million to 1.5 million people will enter Qatar within a month of this World Cup, exceeding the sum of the country’s inbound tourists in 2020 and 2021.
  Locating the main stadium in the new city of Lussel, rather than Doha, is a key step. Of course, there are multiple considerations such as promoting the new city brand, competing with emerging financial cities in the United Arab Emirates and other countries, and facilitating the reception of foreign tourists drinking alone, but one of the main reasons is that Doha cannot withstand such a huge flow of people and vehicles during the World Cup. . Medici pointed out that Doha is usually a congested city, and the traffic volume during the World Cup is likely to increase by more than ten times.

On November 13, the Lusail Stadium, the main venue of the World Cup in Qatar, was brilliantly lit. Figure/Visual China

  However, Lusail is only 20 kilometers away from Doha, which means that Doha will still bear the “maximum pressure”. When Chadwick visited in September this year, he found that the government was making “maximum efforts”: migrant workers were told they needed to leave Qatar during the World Cup and could not return until the match was over; government staff would work from home during the match, All schools will also be closed. But at the same time, he found that the streets of Doha were more congested: the water supply and sewage systems were still under construction on a large scale.
  Some outside experts find it difficult to understand: the investment in this World Cup is the highest ever, 20 times that of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. At the same time, this is also the lightest debt pressure in recent World Cups. Dorsey, a senior researcher at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore, pointed out to that thanks to the fact that the host is “the fourth richest country in the world”, the biggest feature of the 2022 World Cup is that “money is basically not a problem.” With capital and 12 years, why is infrastructure construction still so difficult?

  Chadwick explained that the period from 2010 to 2022 is a long period, and it will not be smooth sailing for Qatar, which relies on energy revenue for 85% of its budget. In 2015, the Middle East experienced the latest oil crisis, and the Qatar Foundation, an important organization involved in football operations, laid off 10,000 people at one time. The diplomatic blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and other countries on Qatar in 2017 and the loss of overseas investment caused by the new crown epidemic further affected the revenue of the Qatari government.
  As a result, Qatar’s World Cup plans have been scaled back several times over the past few years, with the number of stadiums reduced from the originally planned 12 to eight: the minimum set by FIFA.
  Even so, the investment in the World Cup in Qatar has increased from the original estimate of 95 billion US dollars to 220 billion US dollars. In addition to the budget overruns common in major tournaments, Chadwick pointed out that the budget surge is due to more unique difficulties encountered by Qatar: when the international community criticized overwhelmingly, Doha’s administrators realized that many things about the World Cup problem, they never considered when bidding.
“Qatar bought the World Cup”

  In January 2004, former FIFA spokesman Dononi came to Qatar as a consultant for the 2006 Doha Asian Games. When he met Al Thani, then chairman of the Doha Asian Games Organizing Committee, the first thing he said was: “Do you think we can bid for a World Cup?”
  ”I said: No, you can’t, Qatar is too small , and the climate is not suitable.” Dognoni recently recalled .
  In 2009, FIFA announced the launch of the bidding for the host site of the 2022 World Cup. The bidders are mostly Western powers, and no one sees Qatar as a rival. The professional assessment team sent by FIFA assessed at that time: Qatar is the only “high-risk” area among all candidate host locations. The US delegation did not believe that it would lose until the results were announced. Dognoni revealed that the then FIFA president Blatter had a heart for the United States. “His plan is: to Russia in 2018, to the United States in 2022, and to the Asian superpower in 2026. Qatar is not in his plan.”
  Qatar is located on a small peninsula on the southwest coast of the Persian Gulf, with a land area of ​​about 11,500 square kilometers and a population of less than 2 million at that time. The first local football club here was established at the end of the British colonial period in the 1940s, and it has a longer history than the Football Federation. By the beginning of the 20th century, Qatar football had established a three-level league system. However, when Medici, who was a professor at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, investigated the country’s football industry before and after Qatar’s bid for the World Cup, he found that the locals did not know much about their country’s football.
  In 2010, the Qatar national team ranked 113th in the FIFA ratings. People “couldn’t even name a single player from their own country,” recalls Medici. This was the normal state of football in the Middle East at the time: there was no promotion and relegation mechanism between the top league and the lower leagues, the auditorium was always empty, and no one came to the free box with free snacks. Some foreign aid and coaches were brought in, but at clubs in their native Europe, rumors spread: only losers and “gold diggers” go to Qatar.
  Facing domestic status quo and international doubts, why did Qatar bid to host the World Cup? Mahford Amara, a professor at Qatar University and former director of the Sports Science Project at Qatar University, told that the bidding season from 2009 to 2010 was only three years after the Qatari government “recognized the power of sports”. As far as the entire Middle East is concerned, the development of sports is not due to the “ancient tradition of the nomadic period”, but because of “the first modern war in human history”.
  In 1990, the Gulf War broke out, and the Middle East became the first powder keg to be ignited during the period when the Cold War ended and the international situation changed drastically. In 2001, when the “9.11” incident broke out, religious terrorism became the focus of the international community, and its target was the Middle East. Oil, fragility, conservative, extreme, and subject to external forces have gradually become the labels of the region. Amara recalled that the Gulf countries were forced to start rebuilding their regional and international influence networks, and the rising concept of “soft power” became a key path to “compensate for security vulnerabilities”. Investing in media, aviation, and sports has become the path chosen by all countries in the Middle East.
  Qatar made several attempts: creating Al Jazeera, Qatar Airways, and hosting the Asian Games. In 2006, Qatar hosted a super-large international event for the first time, and it was also the largest Asian Games in history. The unprecedented heavy rain in nearly half a century led to constant accidents, but the opening ceremony with unprecedented investment attracted 1.7 billion viewers around the world, which made Europeans rarely attracted to the Asian Games, and even attracted the teams from the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games to “learn from experience”. This is also the first time that Doha, the capital of Qatar, has become a world-famous city. Amara noted that the experience became “a milestone in Qatar’s international strategy through sport”.

The official ball for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

  In the year after the Asian Games ended, a larger layout was quietly launched in the field of football. According to Western media, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who is the head of the Qatar Investment Authority and the Qatar National Olympic Committee, is behind the scenes. He was the fourth son of the emir at the time, but he was already regarded as the successor by the outside world.
  Chadwick is one of the foreign consultants invited to participate in Qatar’s World Cup bid. He told that between 2006 and 2008 Qatar had reached a consensus to bid for the World Cup. At the end of 2006, Qatar comprehensively reformed the league mechanism, participated in the AFC Champions League, and established the first elite academy (Aspire Academy) to train sports professionals and engage in sports exchanges.
  At the same time, several Qatari capitals began to enter the top European football clubs. Less than half a year after successfully bidding to host the World Cup, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund acquired 70% of Paris Saint-Germain’s shares for 50 million euros, and spent 84 million euros in signings that year, enabling Paris Saint-Germain to win six championships from 2013 to 2019. French League Champions.

On December 2, 2010, people in Doha took to the streets to celebrate after learning that Qatar had won the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

  Almost simultaneously with Qatar, Middle Eastern countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia have also shifted their foreign investment focus to major European football leagues. While Formula 1’s Bahrain Grand Prix also has a high return on investment, Chadwick points out that football has the highest popularity, with 211 members of FIFA, compared to events that are popular in certain regions or specific groups. Five more than the IOC. The World Cup and the UEFA Champions League are the two most watched sporting events in the world. Another factor: No other sport has the commercial and political clout among European powers that soccer does.

  James Dorsey, a senior researcher at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore, pointed out to that only by understanding the differences in the purpose of investing in sports between Middle Eastern countries and other countries can we grasp the context of the entire “World Cup story”. “The goal of investing in sports in the Middle East is not limited to profit or soft power, but to seek international legitimacy. To put it more bluntly: through soft power construction, the Middle East countries hope that most countries, especially major countries, will recognize themselves as normal, A modern state that maintains cooperation with the international community and enjoys the protection and support of major states.”
“A deal of your will”

  In 2008, the global financial crisis broke out. The then president of FIFA, Blatter, later revealed that because the financial crisis caused uncertainty about the future of high-cost large-scale competitions, leading to the intention of FIFA’s main sponsors to reduce capital, the FIFA Executive Committee was forced to decide to break The tradition of “one bid at a time” decided in 2010 to host the two World Cups in 2018 and 2022 at the same time. Among them, 2018 is “return to Europe”, so 2022 must be hosted by non-European countries.
  At the same time, stimulated by rising energy prices after the financial crisis, Qatar’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose instead of falling, and by 2009 it had doubled compared to five years ago. Going a step further, Qatar described its bid to host the World Cup as “the first Middle East World Cup, the first Arab World Cup”. This statement draws on the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, and it is matched with the public opinion that “some events can be held jointly in neighboring countries”.
  Simon Chadwick, a professor at the Skema Business School in France, described this as a “two-way rush” at a special node. He pointed out that Qatar fits FIFA’s focus on the “largest potential market” in the Middle East after the financial crisis: the economic situation here is good, there is no lack of enthusiasm for football, and local football games from Saudi Arabia to Iran often attract tens of thousands of spectators. The backward development of professional leagues and the loss of spectators happened to be the opportunity for FIFA to intervene.
  On December 1, 2010, after four votes by 22 members of the FIFA Executive Committee, Qatar defeated Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States to win the right to host the 2022 World Cup. When the news came out, Europe and the United States were shocked, and few people believed that this was a legitimate victory. FIFA Secretary-General Walker said in an email that “Qatar bought the World Cup.”
  Under the pressure of public opinion, FIFA hired American jurist Garcia to preside over an independent investigation. A tangled picture of transactions was then revealed to the world. Since 2006, almost all the layout of Qatar’s football career has been involved.
  Investigators found that the elite academy opened by Qatar in the name of training cooperation has a particularly close cooperation with Thailand, which in turn has links to Makudi, a voting member of FIFA Thailand’s executive committee. The investigation has focused on a suspicious meeting in which Qatari and Thai parties discussed a huge gas deal and “promoting cooperation in football”.
  When interviewed, the people involved claimed that the meeting was about these two topics, some people only discussed gas, and some people only discussed football. Garcia pointed out in the final investigation report that no one could explain why such two “completely unrelated” topics appeared in one meeting.
  The investigation also points to higher-level involvement. In November 2010, Michel Platini, the vice president of FIFA who holds voting rights and the president of UEFA, went to a lunch meeting. Platini told investigators that he thought it was a private lunch with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but when he arrived, he found that the fifth son of the Emir of Qatar and the then-Prime Minister of Qatar were also present. Of course, Platini added, neither government explicitly asked him to vote for Qatar.
  After encountering a lot of resistance, Garcia submitted a 430-page investigation report in September 2015. FIFA later stated that Qatar’s behavior did not affect the fairness and integrity of the voting results, so there is no need to re-vote. Since then, a series of investigations from Switzerland, the United States, France and other places have been gradually launched. High-level officials including Blatter and Platini have been charged by the judiciary. Inconclusive. Qatar said the accusations were malicious and racially discriminatory.
  Bruce Bean, an emeritus professor of Michigan State Law School who has long studied FIFA corruption, told that it is almost impossible to investigate and deal with behind-the-scenes transactions related to the World Cup. “When someone from Qatar who is ‘traveling’ in France pays a bribe to someone who is of Peruvian nationality but lives in the US, and the money is sent to a bank in the Cayman Islands, who can investigate the bribe?” he said. “It is true that FIFA is governed by the laws of Switzerland, the country where it is headquartered, but almost no crime is committed in Switzerland.”
  All respondents, however, said the bribery scandal would not affect the success of the World Cup or Qatar’s reputation. “Corruption has always been rife within FIFA. The 1998 World Cup in France and the 2006 World Cup in Germany were not immune. Qatar just followed the same rules of the game as other countries,” Chadwick said. more money, so ‘play’ better.” He pointed out that looking back at this period of history now, people should not ignore that: Qatar has a need to host the World Cup, and FIFA also has the goal of promoting football in the Middle East, which is ultimately A “deal of your will”.

On November 10, the World Cup landscape in Doha, Qatar.

In November, Doha, Qatar, people take photos next to the World Cup countdown clock on the Corniche.
“Incredible Transformation”

  At the beginning of the successful bid, the Qataris did not expect what kind of changes they would need to make in the World Cup. The British “Guardian” reported that in the three years since Qatar successfully bid for the World Cup, more than 500 Nepalese workers and more than 700 Indian workers have fallen to the front line of large-scale construction due to high temperature and overtime. Their ID cards were confiscated, they were deprived of food and drinking water, and many were denied wages, and they even had to pay the labor service companies.
  In Qatar, this is not new: only 15% of the country’s permanent population are Qatari citizens, and nearly 85% of the permanent population are foreign-related citizens, mainly cheap labor from South Asia. They do not have citizenship rights, and are not even allowed to change employers voluntarily, as required by Qatari law. This is because a system called “kafala”, derived from Islamic law, flourished again in the middle of the last century when the Gulf countries began large-scale oil extraction, and it has survived to this day.
  Hassan Sawadi has been trying to address labor issues. He is the Secretary-General of the “Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy” (hereinafter referred to as the Supreme Committee), which is the organizing committee set up by the Qatari government for the 2022 World Cup. In November 2017, James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, met Sawady at an international conference. What made Dorsey unusual was that Sawadi admitted that “a lot of people are dissatisfied with FIFA’s choice (Qatar)” and pointed out that labor issues and other indicators show that challenges do exist.

  ”I understand people are prone to anger, we live in a world where ideals have been punctured,” Sawadi   said, “but we are achieving the unimaginable.” Sawadi and the Supreme Council he leads are seen as “enlightened”, Chadwick said. Sawady himself studied in the UK, speaks four languages, and worked as a lawyer in Europe and America. Here’s the problem: he’s not the Secretary of Labor. To further complicate matters, the employer sponsorship involved in the kafala system is governed by the Home Office.
  Since 2010, Chadwick has participated in many meetings between the Supreme Council and Qatari government departments. The traditional “big meeting” style from the desert tribes has tortured him. “Of course there are historical reasons for this decision-making method, but the reality is that on any issue, various departments have to conduct long discussions to seek the so-called ‘middle way’.” Chadwick said, “My feeling is that, It’s like haggling in a market.” The
  shift came in 2016. In 2013, the old emir decided to abdicate, and Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani became the first leader of the Al-Thani family to successfully succeed to the throne without relying on a coup. Born in 1980, he was only 33 years old at the time, the youngest leader in Qatar’s history and the youngest head of state in the Arab world at that time. The new monarch and Sawadi have more in common than their father. They have all stayed in the UK. Sawadi was Tamim’s general counsel at the Qatar Investment Authority and was also an important assistant to Tamim when he led the 2006 Asian Games Organizing Committee.
  Western media said that because of the “lack of foundation” in the military and other departments, Tamim did not start large-scale reforms quickly after he took office as emir, but some departmental cooperation and budget cuts aimed at improving government efficiency have quietly begun. In January 2016, Tamim carried out a reform of the Qatari government “aimed at improving the efficiency of government operations”. Many ministers were replaced and departments were merged. In Chadwick’s impression, “from about 2015”, he felt that the decision-making efficiency of the Qatari government has improved.
  The labor issue was finally resolved. In October 2017, the International Trade Union Confederation and the Qatari government signed an agreement to improve the legal status of more than 2 million immigrant workers: workers no longer need the employer’s permission to change jobs or leave Qatar, and no longer need to pay “recruitment fees” , eight government-run recruitment centers for them to exclude unequal contract terms from employers.
  For Qatar, this means a sudden increase in World Cup preparation costs. In 2020 alone, the Qatari government will spend an additional $800 million to isolate and treat workers infected with the new crown. In August 2020, the government also set a monthly minimum wage of 1,000 riyals ($275) for all workers. According to the ILO, this is the “first non-discriminatory minimum wage” in the Middle East. The government is also asking labor companies to reimburse previously collected recruitment fees, and media reports say more than $20 million has been returned so far.
  Other changes came at the same time. In December 2020, the Qatari government stated that it would allow the rainbow flag to appear during the 2022 World Cup. During the same period, Sawadi announced that Qatar has adjusted its alcohol prohibition policy from the Islamic law, allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages for up to 19 hours a day during the event.
  Several experts pointed out that Qatar was able to usher in these “incredible transformations” due to multiple reasons besides the change in the leaders’ thinking. Chadwick believes that the key is that Qatar is aware of the “spotlight effect” of the World Cup: when the International Labor Organization and human rights groups began to talk about labor rights here, the major sponsors of national football associations, clubs, players and even FIFA Joining the ranks of concern and criticism, if the host country cannot properly respond to concerns, the interests of all will be damaged.
  However, James Dorsey, a senior researcher at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore, pointed out that the “spotlight effect” has always existed, and the countries that hosted the World Cup before Qatar have also faced accusations of corruption and human rights issues, but “never a country has been in the spotlight”. Legislative and institutional changes like Qatar’s.”
  This is why Dorsey supports Qatar to host this World Cup: Unlike those “larger countries”, Qatar is a rare “small country that hosts super-large events”, and its international influence and national security are almost entirely dependent on “Soft power” is not military capability. This means that international recognition and international reputation are more important to Qatar than all previous World Cup host countries. “This is the greatest significance of the Qatar World Cup: the real legacy of the previous World Cups is debt and abandoned venues. Only the Qatar World Cup is a World Cup that has brought real changes to the host country.”
  However, not everyone likes and accepts changes. In November 2019, the ninth year since Qatar started building the World Cup, Chadwick gave a lecture about the World Cup at the Georgetown University Qatar Center in Doha. After the speech, a local old man in his seventies stopped him: “I don’t want to host the World Cup in my country.” “Why?” “Because it offends my traditional Islamic values.”
More and more “two-way travel”?

  Dognoni said that as the game unfolds, people will forget everything discussed now and focus on the wonderful game, cheering or crying for Messi and Ronaldo’s curtain call, France’s defending journey and every matchup . But at the same time, whether it is FIFA or Qatar, the “traders” of the World Cup must think about: What will be the legacy of this World Cup?
  Sports sociologist Ben Carrington once said that modern sport is essentially “a large spectacle that promotes nationalism”. From the 2010s to the 2020s, Chadwick felt that the preparations for the World Cup had increased the national pride of Qataris. “When I first came to Qatar, people were very humble, uncertain about the future of the country, with a typical post-colonial legacy in their minds,” he said, “but now they clearly say: ‘We In some respects, it is stronger than a regional power like Saudi Arabia. ‘The feeling of a colony and a small country has almost disappeared.”
  However, while the national pride is rising, the contradictions between Qatar and neighboring countries are also intensifying. In 2017, Saudi Arabia and other countries imposed a diplomatic blockade on Qatar, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorist organizations and being too close to Iran, which the Qatari government denied. Dognoni pointed out that this was essentially “an act of competition for Qatar’s preparations for the World Cup”.
  Arzaki, a senior researcher at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and former chief economist for the Middle East of the World Bank, pointed out that countries in the Middle East are still in small markets that rely on energy for economic development, so neighboring countries compete fiercely for energy exports, which makes the country The region has become the least integrated region in the world. Dorsey pointed out that in this economic reality, it is almost a utopian fantasy to expect football to bridge divisions and promote cooperation like the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. On the contrary, the 2022 World Cup has further intensified the “sports arms race” in the Middle East.

On November 11, in Doha, Qatar, the architectural complex of Doha is seen through the arch on the balcony of the Museum of Islamic Art. Figure/Visual China

  After successfully bidding for the World Cup, Qatar and Saudi Arabia competed for the right to host the Asian Games in 2030 and 2034, with Qatar winning in 2030 and Saudi Arabia in 2034. At present, both sides are aiming at the Olympic Games. In addition, according to Western media reports, since the Middle East will not usher in the next World Cup soon after 2022, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are trying to promote FIFA President Infantino’s plan to expand FIFA’s “Club World Cup”. , Saudi Arabia is also trying to form a brand new regional football league “Southwest AFC”.
  Mahford Amara, a professor at Qatar University and the former director of the Sports Science Program at Qatar University, said frankly that considering Qatar’s population size, “it is unfavorable to widely carry out such competition with neighboring countries in the Middle East.” What countries really need to think about is: How should sports, as a tool of “soft power”, be used?
  From an economic point of view, the UAE invested in Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Qatar sponsored Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Barcelona. These five clubs are at the top of European football club growth. Their value increased on average in 2019 before the epidemic The operating income of the entire European football market also increased by more than 65% in the eight years before the epidemic. However, for Middle Eastern investors who do not put profit as their top priority, the “buy, buy, buy” gold dollar football model, together with the Middle East’s enthusiasm for large-scale games, may become a negative asset for their country’s image.
  Many experts pointed out that the ultimate way out for Jinyuan football is to improve the strength of local sports. A clear example is: in 2017, Egyptian football star Salah joined Liverpool Football Club. The Immigration Policy Lab of Stanford University conducted a follow-up survey of more than 8,000 local football fans and found that the arrival of the Arab football star made residents of this major British city feel more comfortable. The hostility of the Muslim population has decreased by about 20%.
  In this context, whether the 2022 World Cup can promote the prosperity of the local sports culture in the Middle East is the focus of attention from the outside world. It is worth noting that during the ten years of preparing for the World Cup, the Qatar national football team has entered the top 40 international rankings in the world, and even won the 2019 Asian Cup, becoming a strong team in Asia. However, Medici pointed out that such victories still rely on naturalized players rather than home-grown players. Whether the World Cup in Qatar can stimulate Middle Eastern spectators to attend their club leagues and promote unified legislation on the local sports industry will determine whether the legacy of this World Cup can contribute to the “soft power” of the Middle East for a long time.
  One piece of good news: Starting with the 2026 World Cup, 48 instead of 32 teams will qualify for the World Cup finals. For FIFA, this means an increase of more than US$1 billion in ticketing, sponsorship and broadcast revenue; for Middle Eastern countries, this means more opportunities to stay in the center of the world football stage. Perhaps, starting from the World Cup in Qatar, the “two-way rush” will be staged on the stage of the World Cup again and again.

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