27 February 2024

Why Qatar is serious about football after winning AFC for the second time in a row

By pestfood.com

Qatar is a small country where the Asian Cup (AFC) was held from Jan. 13 to Feb. 11. It has a land area of 11,437 square kilometers. It is the size of Gyeonggi Province in Korea.
Qatar lies between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have long been competing for regional hegemony. Its land is small and politically disadvantageous, but it has a small impact on the global situation. Qatar has the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran. It also has the world’s 14th largest oil reserves. It is a key player in the international natural gas market, which is competing for the top two spot in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), a gathering of natural gas exporters and often described as OPEC, is also located in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Qatar is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional cooperation organization for Sunni monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula.

Qatar aimed to become the media and diplomatic hub of the Middle East since the 1990s. In 1996, the country established Al Jazeera Broadcasting Corporation, known as CNN of the Middle East. It even granted permission to establish a political office for the Taliban, who rule Afghanistan, and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that is currently at war with Israel in Gaza. Mediation and negotiation related to the Taliban and Hamas are mainly conducted in Doha. Although it is a small country, it wields considerable influence in the international community centering on natural gas and Middle East diplomacy.

the most sincere country in soccer in the Middle East

However, what draws attention the most recently is soccer. Just look at the 2022 Qatar World Cup and you can see how serious Qatar is about soccer. The 2022 Qatar World Cup features many “first” modifiers. For now, it was the first World Cup in the Middle East. It was the first World Cup where an air conditioner was turned off at a major stadium.
Recently, Saudi Arabia has been stimulated to foster its soccer infrastructure. Notably, Saudi Arabia is sparingly investing in its domestic league. Last summer, Saudi Arabia recruited a large number of world stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Neymar (Brazil), Karim Benzema (France), N’Golo Kante (France), and Sadio Mane (Senegal) ahead of the 2023-2024 season.

The strategy to recruit world-class superstars to improve the domestic league also has a foundation. The hero is Qatar. A case in point is Xavi Hernandez, who is currently the coach of FC Barcelona. Xavi, who was also famous as a player, played for Qatar from 2015 to 2019. Gavi Fernandez and Raul Gonzalez, who were from Spain and played for Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, respectively, also played for Qatar league.

Qatar also owns Paris Saint-Germain, a prestigious club in Ligue 1 in France where Lee Kang-in plays. Some say Qatar is the biggest winner of the 2022 Qatar World Cup final, in which Lionel Messi’s Argentina will face Kylian Mbappe’s France. Messi and Mbappe were both Paris Saint-Germain players at the time.

Qataris cite the most impressive scene of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as the scene where King Tamim bin Hamad Al-Sani had conversations with Messi and Mbappe in the final match. This means that soccer has contributed greatly to raising Qatar’s status.

The purpose of Qatar is ‘the cultural and industrial center of the Middle East’
Qatar’s interest in soccer coincides with its national development strategy. Qatar started its reform and opening in earnest in the mid-1990s and had a keen interest in the cultural industry. Its strategy to become a “cultural hub of the Middle East” includes the establishment of a sports channel called “ESPN of the Arab world” with Al Jazeera Broadcasting, the establishment of BeIN, a special educational research channel that hosts campuses of prestigious universities in the U.S. and Europe, and the establishment of Arab Museum of Contemporary Art and Islamic Art.
Qatar aimed to become a cultural hub in the Middle East because of its rival UAE. The UAE, a neighboring country that started reform and opening up ahead of Qatar, has chosen a different strategy from its pursuit of a financial, logistics, transportation, and tourism hub. 유흥알바

Lee Kwon-hyung, a senior researcher at the Institute for Foreign Economic Policy, said, “The UAE received a lot of international attention when it first used its hub strategy,” adding, “For Qatar, a late runner, to gain attention, it needed to change its focus from the UAE, and in the process, soccer seems to have been used as an important tool for the national brand promotion strategy.”

So far, Qatar’s soccer strategy has been effective. Is that why? Now, other Middle Eastern oil-producing countries have entered the race to raise their national brand using soccer. The so-called GCC soccer war is about to begin in earnest.