The World Cup as a public relations exercise

From a football perspective, the victory of the State of Qatar in the fight for the organization of the World Cup 2022 was a surprise. But if one considers the diplomatic agenda and the objectives of the emirate, in particular after the rise to power of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, it is understood that the organization of the most important sporting event in the world is the final destination of a plan to position that nation as a pole of the Arab world.

The burden of the kafala system and harmful labor practices for immigrants who arrive in that country as labor, especially for the construction sector, as well as the inevitable criticism that can be made from the West to a practically absolute monarchy and a society in which women have enjoyed the right to vote for less than 25 years, have been enormous diplomatic hurdles for the young Qatari state.

Aware that the diversification of his economy, breaking isolationism and considering himself as a different pole, at times even in opposition among his neighbors and especially before Saudi Arabia are fundamental tasks, since his enthronement in 2013 the sheikh organized a public relations offensive and international lobby that included sport as a tool.

Football is of interest to various countries in the Arab world as an investment, but the World Cup assembly is of another dimension: in addition to an exhibition of economic power and logistics, it offers the host country the opportunity to make itself known in the light that interest, before the largest audience possible. That is why the sheik personally led the World Cup project; his lobbying was convincing enough for Qatar to outvote the United States and Japan, no less.

Qatar will shine during the month that comes. It will project its opulence, its modernism, its futuristic urban landscape and will show off the use of technology in the stadiums, on the playing fields and in the transport system. If his plans come to fruition, the world will leave with a lasting impression of a different and cutting-edge Arab world.

The plan is not perfect, of course: the culture shock promises to be brutal, as already reflected by the ban on alcohol consumption in and around stadiums that FIFA believed would not be as restrictive. In addition, there is an equally powerful communications onslaught against the unresolved agenda for the human rights of foreign workers in the country and unanswered questions about how many people may have died in the construction of the infrastructure for the sports conclave.

In any case, Qatar has already secured the opportunity to sign a success of image and dissemination. Whether he succeeds or not remains to be seen.

To its credit, it must be said that the world seems willing to enthusiastically surrender to the first post-pandemic event of mass consumption and global appeal; Unlike the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the covid is no longer an international concern and in need of evasion, urgent to exorcise the ghost of the 2023 recession, humanity will enjoy the World Cup less and less aware of these agendas, hypnotized for the mass spectacle par excellence.

The World Cup as a public relations exercise