Like the Olympic Games, the Soccer World Championships can contribute to international understanding. FIFA chief Gianni Infantino may have had it in mind when he went to Israel with the idea of making a headline. Infantino first hinted there, and then let the cat or ball out of the bag during the meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister: If the FIFA boss has a way, a World Cup can be held in Israel and other countries in the region by 2030. Israeli Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett’s office said after a joint meeting that the United Arab Emirates should lead the way.
“Dreams, Dreams and Aspirations”
One would have hinted that Infantino would advance in Israel. Earlier, at a conference of the “Jerusalem Post”, when asked about the possibility of a World Cup in Israel, he replied, “Nothing is impossible.” Referring to the normalization process between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the 51-year-old said, “You have to have visions, dreams and aspirations. So co-hosting is an option.”
A real option? “Well, I think we’re not far off,” said Robert Chatterjee, deputy editor-in-chief of Zenith magazine, which specializes in Middle East issues. In particular, Chatterjee said in an interview with the DW that Egypt or Jordan would be a natural partner for the Israelis. The Israelis can host such a competition and, after all, they have already proven it at the U21 European Championships.
Competition is not without competition. The South American nations of Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile are also planning a joint application for the tournament in nine years. As Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in the spring, all four British associations are preparing a candidacy with Ireland. Portugal and Spain have officially registered their interest in interest, and China is also considered a potential applicant. The International Olympic Committee can only dream of such candidates.
The tournament is scheduled to take place in 2024. Following the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the 2026 World Cup will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico for the first time with 48 countries.
Experiment in Qatar
“Israel is definitely part of the international league calendar,” said Chatterjee, a Middle East expert. So the upcoming World Cup in Qatar is “already a litmus test” and the security aspects need to be addressed.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed an agreement on Israeli diplomatic relations last September. Previously, only two Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan, had diplomatic relations with Israel. The two Gulf states have abandoned their decades-long line of Arab countries to sever ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.
Infantino’s actions lead you to the Palestinians who were extremely acidic. The Palestinian Football Association canceled a last-minute planned meeting with the FIFA president in protest. Infantino attended an event at the Tolerance Museum in Jerusalem, built in a Muslim cemetery, according to a statement from the association. This is “a total disgrace to the values of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence”, as FIFA stands for. A top football official attended the inauguration of the Friedman Center for Peace Trent Strength on Monday at the Tolerance Museum in Jerusalem. The facility was started by David Friedman, a former US ambassador to Israel and a close confidante of former US President Donald Trump. He is clearly pro-Israel and has an immigrant-friendly policy.
By then, it should be clear to the last FIFA boss which diplomatic parcel he is entering with his World Cup idea. Middle East expert Robert Chatterjee knows that many international footballers like Paul Pogba have already spoken out in favor of Palestinians.
Travel fan. Freelance analyst. Proud problem solver. Infuriatingly humble zombie junkie.