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Qatar 2022 and the future of the Middle East 3, December 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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It matters not if you are a pauper or a Prince; from time to time everyone suffers from the green eyed monster. Until its spectacular demise, Dubai grew covetous glances from around the region. Since then Abu Dhabi and Qatar have been quietly vying to fill the space. Abu Dhabi hosts the über luxurious and glamorous F1 Grand Prix and promises a whole island’s worth of cultural delights. Qatar led with an emphasis on education and a cultural approach, trumpeting its American Universities, Tribeka film festival and a stunning Islamic art museum.

Kuwait meanwhile has been too busy infighting to agree on any strategy to compete, Saudi Arabia is hamstrung by a repressive social atmosphere and Bahrain does not have the cash to compete meaningfully; their F1 Grand Prix being something of a hang-over from the ‘good old days’.

Yet by winning the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar has catapulted itself to the top of this imaginary league. In terms of a global audience and prestige, nothing but the Olympics comes close. This is a coup of epic proportions for Qatar and – make no mistake – is a seminal moment in the entire history of the state.

Despite official congratulations for Qatar, therefore, I have not one doubt that in private there are howls of derision and anger ringing around the Palaces of the Gulf. Outwith this micro-region, Egypt are long-term antagonists if not enemies of Qatar and Mubarak will viscerally hate this little upstart of a country grandstanding and upstaging Egypt so effectively time and again. Those in the Levant will be shaking their heads marvelling at what the money of oil Sheikhs will buy them while the Iranians will be working out how best to use this to their advantage.

Expect, therefore, a flurry of op-eds in the near future offering any number of back-handed compliments.

‘Yes, well done to little, rich, plucky Qatar’ they will patronisingly muse, ‘but hosting such a large tournament in such a small country is madness and they will have to spend tens of billions etc etc’.

It is interesting to note that one of the key reasons for Qatar’s success is the fact that it is hoped that the World Cup can in some way, shape or form, bring the Middle East together. Of this I have no doubt: Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President will be creating space on his mantle piece for his Nobel Peace Prize.

Yet this optimistic view woeful misunderstands the curiously bitter disputes that riddle the Arab Middle East. Even, as mentioned earlier, among the Gulf States, a broadly homogenous group of people in terms of religion, language, culture, ethnicity and history, there are remarkably prickly relationships in evidence.

While in public, Qatar’s Arab brethren will have to ‘come together’ and support Qatar such will be the public support of having a football tournament so close to them, I fully expect no end of snipey remarks for, well, over a decade.

Does Blatter stand any chance of getting his Peace Prize? Two factors strike me as favourable in this regard.

First, 2022 is a long time away. This potentially allows some long-term-thinking negotiating, offering a natural and unmoving deadline. A skilful negotiator could potentially use this to his/her advantage.

Second, now that Qatar has the World Cup, the only possible greater prize is securing Middle East peace. And I’ve no doubts that they will redouble their efforts towards this aim, again, using 2022 as a categorical deadline.

Clearly, militating against some kind of resolution is the rather obvious fact that this conflict is epically intractable and requires a difficult confluence of peace and politics in the Arab world, Palestine, Israel and America.

Perhaps Qatar would be wise to seek to role together a united Arab front using the World Cup as a truly pan-Arab event to press on the conflict. Yet, as described above, it will be difficult to persuade chauvinistic Arab countries to follow Qatar’s lead at the best of times, let alone when they have just been awarded the kudos-busting largest tournament on earth.

Yet, if one has learned anything from the past few day’s events, it is that one must never bet against Qatar. It is infinitely more than simply a very rich country. Qatar has a wealth of outstanding individuals that are gifted, world-class business people and its newer generations are shaping up to be the best educated Arab generation in history.

While it is crucial to acknowledge the staggering challenges that Qatar still faces in its quest to host a superb World Cup, as its rivals fear, Qatar could well be the future of the Middle East.

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Comments»

1. Paul - 3, December 2010

Could you elaborate on Egypt’s animosity towards Qatar? I had no idea.

thegulfblog.com - 3, December 2010

Your wish…https://thegulfblog.com/2010/12/03/egypt-qatar-a-quick-background/

Thanks for your continued patronage…

2. Dr. Cherif Ghalizani - 4, December 2010

Quatar 2022 is not an advantage for the FIFA except money making. Soccer is a very popular sport except in the US and Canada. To promote soccer in North America and develop the professional sport in the north American continent I wish the FIFA 2022 would be held in the USA. I understand how eager are the Arabs in search of recognition worldwide. Just the petrodolars did nothing for the recognition of the Arab countries. Unfortunately compare to Brazil or India Arab countries for the last century offered nothing for the good of the humanity…No industrial,medical, educational, cultural innovation ( no great philosopher,or musician, or composer, artist painter, great surgeon, or invention of a vaccine or any medicament to help humans ). India achieved in Space sciences, Brazil offer a lot of innovation in different fields…Arabs sales hydrocarbon and…buy…buy everything…I don’t think Quatar FIFA 2022 will do anything serious for the recognition of the Arab culture and civilization…maybe it will help accepting the role of Arab woman in sport…however big money will be at the rendez vous in 2022 in Quatar


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