Saudi Arabia made the announcement on Wednesday that it intends to submit a proposal to host the 2034 World Cup. This is the most recent move in an effort to transform the country into a worldwide leader in the sports industry.
According to a statement released by the Saudi Arabian football association, the bid “intends to deliver a world-class tournament and will draw inspiration from Saudi Arabia’s ongoing social and economic transformation and the country’s deep-rooted passion for football.”
The announcement of the candidature comes exactly one year after Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s neighbour, held the first World Cup in the Middle East. During that tournament, the Saudi national team stunned eventual champions Argentina by winning their group stage match.
The declaration made by Saudi Arabia occurred exactly one hour after the governing body of international football, FIFA, issued a statement outlining its intentions for the international Cup in 2030 and encouraging nations affiliated with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to bid for the World Cup in 2034.
Soon after the conclusion of the tournament in Qatar, Saudi Arabia announced that it has recruited Cristiano Ronaldo to play in the Saudi Pro League. Ronaldo is the first of a spate of famous talents who will be lured to the world’s largest crude oil producer by eye-popping pay.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform strategy, which aspires to convert Saudi Arabia into a tourist and economic powerhouse while simultaneously moving the economy away from fossil fuels, places a significant emphasis on the development of the country’s sports industry.
The next weeks will see the kingdom play home to a number of high-profile sporting events, including the conclusion of the regular season for the LIV Golf League, a boxing bout involving Anthony Joshua, and the Next Gen ATP Finals tennis tournament.
Additionally, in December, it will play home to the FIFA Club World Cup.
Earlier this year, it was announced that Saudi Arabia will be hosting the 2027 Asian Cup for football.
Yasser Al Misehal, head of the Saudi Football Federation, said on Wednesday that this event would allow Saudi authorities to build upon current football infrastructure by constructing new “world-class stadiums” “in the most sustainable ways,” as the president of the Saudi Football Federation.
In the past, Saudi Arabia investigated the possibility of co-hosting the World Cup with Egypt and Greece; however, this proposal has since been abandoned.
Fans will have to endure “maximum three-hour flying times between cities and stadiums” if the new Saudi Arabia-only proposal is successful, according to Misehal.
Because Riyadh is ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on athletic events, the city has been accused of “sportswashing,” which is the practise of using sport to divert attention from human rights violations that are often highlighted.
During an interview that took place a month ago with Fox News, Prince Mohammed refuted the allegations and said, “I will continue doing sportswashing” if it is determined that such activities would help the Saudi economy.
– The de facto dictator, who is 38 years old and has been accused of consolidating power via a harsh crackdown on dissent, will be under more scrutiny as the country prepares to host the World Cup. In one recent example, a retired teacher was sentenced to death for critical social media statements.
Prince Mohammed expressed his “ashamed” feelings to Fox News on the ruling.
According to Kristin Diwan, a researcher at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, Saudi Arabia, like Qatar, would come under fire for its treatment of migrant workers as well as its decision to criminalise homosexuality.
“Yet, there is a growing sense of inevitability to the emerging centrality of the Gulf region to the sport,” she added. “This is something that seems to be happening more and more.”
The construction related to the World Cup could also draw a backlash from environmental activists. These activists sounded the alarm last year after Saudi Arabia was awarded hosting rights for the 2029 Asian Winter Games. The Asian Winter Games will be held in Trojena, an area of the planned $500 billion futuristic megacity known as NEOM. The competition will consist of 47 different events.
At the time, Greenpeace questioned whether or not the proposed development of Trojena, which included a man-made freshwater lake, chalets, villas, and ultra-luxury hotels, could possibly be environmentally friendly.
However, Riyadh would like nothing better than to utilise the World Cup as an opportunity to highlight the country’s many natural features and debunk the myth that Saudi Arabia is just one vast desert.
On Wednesday, the head of the football federation, Misehal, stated that spectators would be lured to “our mountains, our islands, and of course our culture.” He said that everything will be coupled with state-of-the-art facilities to ensure a fantastic experience for the supporters.
Soon after the Saudi Arabian candidature for the 2034 FIFA World Cup was launched on Wednesday, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) came out in favour of it.
“The entire Asian football family will stand united in support of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s momentous initiative,” said AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa. “We are committed to working closely with the global football family to ensure its success,” he added.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which has its headquarters in Jeddah, has also urged all of its 57 member nations to support the request.