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The political use of football

In these days when we are experiencing the Qatar 2022 World Cup, complex issues are coming to light again, involving countries, societies and international organizations. Beyond the supposed theory of FIFA corruption that began to circulate notably since 2010, as fans we are facing an important question: what is the real power that controls the masses ; Is it a political, media, economic power or is it that sport itself is power?

If we analyze the entire history of sport during the existence of humanity, we come across a surprising truth: sport has never just been sport. The different sports, tournaments and competitions have always been a tool in the hands of another “power”, outside the sports circle . Athletes articulate, tense and move their muscles, and with them that "mysterious power" articulates, polarizes and manipulates societies and peoples and even entire nations.

I will give some examples in order to clarify the context: in pre-Hispanic Mexico, sport was a ritual that ended by offering human sacrifices to the gods, a sport delivered to divine power; the different athletic competitions in ancient Greece served to control the masses under the shadow of divinity and class economic-political power; in modern history there are many examples from the 1936 Olympic Games with Nazi Germany, the different FIFA World Cups and the 1995 Rugby World Cup with Nelson Mandela. They all represented exciting sports tournaments that sought, in addition to experiencing sports fever, to build a brand: the brand of a nation.

In accordance with the above and considering that since the beginning of history sport served an intangible power, what is different about Qatar 2022?How to understand the controversy behind the first World Cup in The middle east; Is it a social, religious or political controversy or why is the West now concerned about human rights in Qatar? Since at the time, it seems that the West forgot the rights of "living beings" in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Israel...etc..

Before delving deeper into the case of Qatar, we will have to address different aspects that are more relevant in Middle Eastern society, compared to Latin America; I am referring to contexts and factors that influence how those countries are perceived for those of us who are on the other side of the planet.

Religion is the backbone of society in the Middle East, everything is structured according to religion: schools, public opinion and even sports clubs. Religion, for the inhabitants of those countries, is not an additional aspect to their lives, it is their "national" essence par excellence.

Islam is the dominant religion in the Middle East. The philosophy of life of a Muslim (who belongs to Islam) varies from the extreme right to liberalism. Taking into account that Islam was born in what is now Saudi Arabia, we continue to see that the citizens of that country, along with Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, are among the most conservative among Arab countries< /strong>.

Those of us who are not Muslims should understand that Islam is a religion that not only establishes a lifestyle, like other religions, but also a form of government; is a religion that seeks to form a theocratic government (a government led by God 'Allah' and his holy Quran).

In the historical context, the last time Islam was represented in a single state was in the time of the Ottoman Empire. The First World War was the last bullet that ended the power of the Ottomans, leaving the territory of the Middle East divided into different "independent-countries" (this is how the West sold the idea), some have been fighting for years to try to form democratic republics and others follow a very particular style of monarchy that I will call "the monarchy of the tribes".

Based on this historical and religious context, Arab countries compete among themselves to return to having the glorious Islamic State ; With a brief analysis we can know that there are three main powers that seek to lead the Islamic world: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Qatar is the little brother who thinks you can get along with all the empires around you. He wants to be on good terms with the Saudis, but at the same time not to become their backyard, so he tries to maintain a very good friendship with the great rival Iran, with all that that country represents for the Islamic world and for the United States of America. . Qatar does not recognize Israel as a state, it supports the Palestinian cause, but at the same time it is a close friend of the Turks, who put Islam aside and established diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. p>

The economy in the countries of the Middle East has been based largely on the energy sector, here it must be considered that energy as it is found in nature, be it oil or gas, does not it is forever nor will it last another hundred years. This is a reality that the Arab energy-producing countries fully understand.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have managed million-dollar investment schemes in non-energy sectors, such as education, infrastructure, telecommunications, the media and, without a doubt... sports.

Media interest in Middle Eastern affairs had a considerable increase after September 11, 2001, then the 2003 Iraq war and the phenomenon of terrorism based on Islamic justifications (Jihad). . All of the above, and in parallel with the digital revolution and the new information and communication technologies ICTs, put the Arab powers facing a very difficult challenge: how to escape from isolation in a globalized world?

My theory is simple: sport is an integral economic and social model that, for the aforementioned Arab powers, represents a door towards an acceptance of a globalized world, it is the most flexible social phenomenon and recommended to connect with the different mentalities of the world. The soccer World Cup, the Olympic Games, Formula 1 and all the other competitions allow the powers of the Middle East to:

  1. Get out of social isolation and slip from fanatic currents;

  2. Expand your culture by leveraging all communication platforms and your fan audiences;

  3. Establish a long-term investment model, with a high probability that it will be a sustainable and sustainable model;

  4. Even the conservatives themselves believe that this type of sporting event is an opportunity to convert many people to Islam, a phenomenon that we have witnessed on social media since the start of the World Cup.

More than a business, the World Cup in Qatar and sport in the Middle East in general seeks to impact the world, it tries to rebuild an Islamic nation that was trapped in a labyrinth caused by historical and cultural facts ; For this reason, issues such as the possible corruption of FIFA fall short compared to a gigantic project that only a few are barely perceiving its existence.

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