Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The World of Football! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The World Cup tournament has kicked off in South Africa. It is the first time that this tournament is being held in the African continent and the people of Africa believe that this is international acknowledgement of their status and worthiness after many years of the injustice of white colonialism (some believe that such injustice still exists but in a new and different form).

The World Cup tournament is no longer just a sports event; it is a massive industry and is part of politics, media, the economy and culture in what has now become a magical and wonderful mix.

FIFA is the official body responsible for the organization of the World Cup tournament. FIFA’s power, status and importance surpass that of some governments around the world. The current president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, is treated like a head of state on official visits. Whenever FIFA spearheads a public awareness campaign, it has a tremendous impact all over the world and this has been the case with its anti-drug and anti-racism campaigns.

Today FIFA is reaping the benefit of granting World Cup partnership rights to a limited number of companies in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of revenues. In addition, FIFA has also given the sponsorship rights to television companies, bus companies and official balls, not to mention the icing on the cake that is the selling of broadcasting rights. There are some who try to ride the World Cup wave such as prestigious banks like UBS, Goldman Sachs and others that present World Cup reports on the countries taking part in the tournament. They offer accurate analyses about the financial and economic impact of this tournament on the host country and its markets and on the countries taking part. Companies that are not officially allowed to use the term “World Cup” and related slogans overcome this obstacle by using football players in their promotions and phrases such as: “Win the chance to watch the biggest football tournament in Africa!”

On the Arab level, some countries have begun to realize the potential opportunity in hosting such a major international event. However, these countries are not fully aware of the preparation involved and the responsibilities that come with hosting such a tournament. There is no doubt that it is a golden opportunity to improve the infrastructure of the host country; this was the case in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and most recently in South Africa when it won the bid to host the World Cup.

After the embarrassment of Morocco and Egypt’s failure to win the bid to host the 2010 World Cup, Qatar submitted an impressive bid (even though I believe FIFA is still not convinced of the idea of small countries hosting a tournament of such magnitude as large numbers of people are crucial for the success of such events and local spectators have always formed the backbone to such events).

In its bid, Qatar made promises and guarantees that if the World Cup is held there it will be the best World Cup in history. But competition will be stiff with other strong countries presenting their bids, most notably England, the birthplace of football, which aspires to host the World Cup tournament after over 45 years since the last World Cup was held there.

But for now happy World Cup 2010!