Qatar, Israel, Iran: politics around the corner of the football stadium

2022 World Cup in Qatar. Soccer ball with flags of world countries on grass field of football stadium. . 3d illustration

For at least three countries, Qatar, Iran and Israel, the FIFA World Cup will represent an important political and communication issue.

For the host country Qatar, which is close to the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, huge investments in both the conquest of hosting the World Cup and the construction of refrigerated stadiums are the sanctity of a policy.

Qatar, diplomatic weapon

Like all authoritarian countries, Qatar understood that sport is both a diplomatic and a military weapon. Diplomatic because football drains fame and sympathy. Military, because PSG and the soccer world cup represent what a nuclear bomb represents to Iran or North Korea: political defense. Fame through football deters a potential aggressor, such as Saudi Arabia. With football, Qatar ensures that its enemy has millions of football fans in all countries of the world.

But there is a downside to focusing attention by organizing a planetary event: a troubled past resurfaces. Everyone remembers that Doha, the capital of Qatar, is the gathering place of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in almost the entire Middle East. Everyone remembers the Al-Jazeera column offered to Muslim Brotherhood cantor Youssef al-Qaradawi, except that no terrorist organization, Hamas, has a permanent residence in Doha. Also, everyone knows that Qatar is playing a problematic game with Iran, and thousands of Indians, Filipinos, Pakistanis, etc. have been killed due to poor working conditions in the Pharaoh’s construction sites. caused the death of the worker. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have recently condemned Qatar’s treatment of workers, women and other minorities who come to work in the country.

Today, the idea of ​​boycott is widespread. Boycotting TV ratings, not sports teams. If spectators fled football matches, what should have been a blessing would have turned into a cataclysm. To avoid this risk, Amir al Thani gave an interview PointHe said that his country has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood or any Islamist organization like Hamas, that Qatar has good relations with everyone, that the emir is a supporter of relaxed Islam, etc.

Since this interview with the Point had little chance of overcoming mistrust, Qatar committed to spending tens of millions of euros more to invite (all expenses paid, plane, hotel, tickets…) he has tens of thousands of supporters to fill the stands of his stadiums. For Qatar, it is important that viewers watching matches on television see stands that are not only made up of locals.

Israel, the outstretched hand.

Qatar’s need to avoid controversy has even led it to allow direct flights to Tel Aviv-Doha even though there are no diplomatic or air links between the two countries. Israelis and Palestinians with one or more stadium tickets will be allowed to travel directly to Doha. Many Israelis are eager to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the emirate, which they are not normally allowed to do anyway.

Political science experts such as Emmanuel Navon, a researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies in Jerusalem, see this as a sign that “they (Qatar) are ready to soften their stance on Israel.” Can be ! Unless it is taken as a sign that no Arab country can overlook Israel as the organizer of any planetary event.

The United Arab Emirates realized this back in 2018. That year, two years before the Emirate formalized its relations with Israel, the Israeli national anthem was played and the country’s flag was flown at a judo competition in Abu Dhabi. The days of Arab and Iranian athletes refusing to shake hands with Israeli athletes or withdrawing before competition may be over.

Iran, patriotic players.

On the other hand, Iran’s participation in the World Cup may cause problems. Iranian activists have previously demanded that the International Football Federation (FIFA) pull Iran out of the World Cup as punishment for its violence against protesters. Ukraine’s leading football club also asked FIFA to sanction Iran’s military support to Russia. Unsuccessful.

The uprising, which has shaken the regime for two months and drowned the country in blood, will inevitably move to Doha. How could one miss this extraordinary concentration of television cameras? Demonstrations are expected in Qatar, inside and outside stadiums by supporters holding up pictures of Ami and chanting “Women, Life, Freedom”.

What will happen on earth? The players of the Iranian national team are patriots. They know full well that they represent the Iranian nation and not the mullah regime. Will some show discreet signs of solidarity with the demonstrators, as they did in the 2009 uprising?

Some Iranian players supported the protest movement. Sardar Azmoun, the striker of the Iranian national team, said in a later deleted post on his Instagram page that he would sacrifice his place in the tournament for “a hair on the head of Iranian women”. Former football stars were less cautious. Two people were arrested for supporting the protests.

At the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on October 30, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi expressed his concern about Team Melli and requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate with Qatar, Iran’s closest Arab ally, so that “problems do not come to light”.

There is no doubt that Qatar will work on it. But his international image is at risk.

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