Saudi Arabia, its exponential investment and the geopolitics of sport
The country follows its strategy to gain notoriety in view of being one of the possible organizers of the 2030 World Cup, and is also betting on Leo Messi
First was the arrival of the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo and now the French one Karim Benzema. Saudi Arabia has decided to conduct a important commitment to bring some of the most popular players on the planet to play in the country as part of strategy to gain notoriety in view of being one of the possible organizers of the 2030 World Cup.
Benzema, the player with the most titles in Real Madrid’s history, will be the next legend of European football to land in Arabia. As reported to EFE by club sources, during the week he transferred an irrefutable offer and his willingness to accept it. Follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo to a league that grows with players who have made history over the last decade.
As if it were a relay race, the Saudis resumed earlier this year, almost immediately, the witness who left neighboring Qatar after arranging the rendezvous in 2022giving the twist with the signature of Cristiano by Al-Nassr.
And they are willing to pull their economic muscle, modeled on oil, to prevail over the rest of their rivals, the joint bids of Spain, Portugal and Morocco and Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile.
“Saudi Arabia has realized the great potential that football represents as an industry. And not just for an economic question, which doesn’t need it, but for a question of exposure of the country-brand at an international level. The strategy Qatar initiated more than a decade ago has been shown to bring very significant returns in terms of international exposure and Saudi Arabia does not want to be left behind. It is basically a sports diplomacy strategy,” Javier Sobrino, former director of innovation and strategy at FC Barcelona, explained to EFE.
“We live in a world where country-brands are increasingly relevant. Countries, cities and regions compete with each other for tourism, investment, international projection… and there is no such loudspeaker as football. It is a universal language, the sport that is practiced the most, a tool that is used well to reach any part of the world,” added Javier Sobrino, now managing partner of Aser Ventures, a sports investment platform.
“If you want to be and be credible in the world of football, you must not only organize events but also be part of the industry. Qatar has done this with the purchase of PSG in Paris. The Premier League is very attractive to many people internationally , especially in markets such as the Middle East and Asia, having a relevant property there means being part of a fairly exclusive club, if you want to be perceived as someone relevant in this sector you have to be there” underlines the consultant.
Currently There are no official confirmations from the Asian country but there is the feeling that it is trying to find partners, even in other continents, with the aim of reaching the finish line in that edition or in the next one in 2034.. And that’s why they started moving.
In addition to importing into their league stars who have shone in recent years in European football with the aim of turning them into prescribers, offering them an environment away from pressure in which to deploy the last years of their sporting career, the tentacles extend to the organization of competitions.
In this sense Saudi Arabia has set no limits to its ambitions and gradually achieved small goals. It hosted the Super Cup of the transalpine country outside Italy and the same did with the Spanish one, also changing the format in the latter case to accommodate four teams. The next step, already confirmed, will be to host the Club World Cup in December.
Football events are one more stage in its desire to be a showcase for the best competitions in the world, since a Formula 1 Grand Prix or the Dakar rally is already held there. Although it may seem impossible, the Asian Winter Games will take place in a desert environment in 2029 Associated with well-known faces and events that give visibility to the country as a sign that its intentions have been achieved, everything indicates that the next thing will be to promote the infrastructure.
No one doubts that, by then, they will be able to be attractive and convincing in the eyes of others. Among the merits of this current, the door that opens to the world to “soften” the image of a nation subjected to numerous criticisms on the international scene, which tries to show itself open within the limits that are given by its laws and customs.
It also represents an attempt to strengthen its hegemony as the main power in the Middle East and promote the practice of sport among the Saudis. All this responds to an apparently measured plan, with important investments in very popular disciplines such as golf (LIV Golf circuit) and powerful football markets such as the English Premier League.
There is Newcastle, a team they have raised and who will play in the Champions League next season. The feeling is therefore that the structure will not fall overnight as it could have happened years ago when China turned to football, allocating a significant amount to incorporate prominent figures and try to relaunch clubs that were living in better times. In that case, the great dependence on such an unstable sector as real estate and the outbreak of the pandemic caused the dream of offering one’s citizens a great football event to be diluted and accompanying it with the conquest of it based on giving solidity to the quarry.