Saudi Arabia’s 2034 FIFA World Cup Hosting: Predictable Selection

Photo of FIFA's President and Saudi Arabia authority

The announcement that Saudi Arabia will host the 2034 FIFA World Cup has generated considerable excitement in the football world. However, for those who have been following the nation’s journey towards this moment, the decision should not come as a surprise.

Saudi Arabia’s bid for the 2034 World Cup has been meticulously planned and executed, making it a natural choice for FIFA. Let’s go through the reasons behind the decision and why it aligns with FIFA’s vision for the future of the tournament.

The regular meetings between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the Saudi Crown Prince in recent times unmistakably signify the country’s growing sway within the uppermost levels of the sport.

Saudi Arabia’s bid was underpinned by a commitment to invest in top-tier infrastructure. The country has embarked on an ambitious journey to build and renovate stadiums, improve transportation networks, and upgrade accommodation facilities. These efforts have demonstrated Saudi Arabia’s readiness to provide the necessary infrastructure for a successful World.

The geopolitical location of Saudi Arabia makes it an attractive choice for FIFA. Situated at the crossroads of three continents – Asia, Europe, and Africa – the Kingdom offers a strategic location that can attract fans from diverse regions. Furthermore, the favorable time zone ensures that matches can be broadcast at viewer-friendly hours worldwide.

Saudi Arabia has been making a name for itself in the football world. The Saudi Professional League has attracted international talent, and the national team’s performance on the global stage has been commendable. Hosting the World Cup allows Saudi Arabia to solidify its position as a football powerhouse, not only in the Middle East but on a global scale.

Saudi Arabia’s substantial financial resources are a significant factor in its successful bid. The nation has the financial capacity to manage the extensive logistical and operational requirements of hosting a major international tournament, which is a crucial aspect of any World Cup.

FIFA has actively pursued a path of diversity in its selection of World Cup hosts. Recent choices like Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 exemplify FIFA’s objective to broaden the tournament’s horizons. Saudi Arabia’s selection aligns with this commitment to extending the World Cup to new regions and expanding football’s global reach.

Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural and historical heritage played a key role in FIFA’s decision. Hosting the World Cup in a nation with a profound historical legacy presents an opportunity to celebrate and share this unique heritage with the world, adding a cultural dimension to the tournament.

As the country is now on the brink of securing the tournament for the upcoming 11 years, it opens the door for potential controversies that might surpass the issues surrounding Qatar’s hosting in the previous year.

These concerns encompass human rights issues, FIFA’s handling of the bidding process, and the potential disruption to the calendar, which could affect the well-being of players. The likelihood of another winter World Cup, driven by extreme summer temperatures, adds to these concerns.

Many critics label it ‘sportswashing,’ soft power, by the world’s largest oil exporter, with serious concerns over human rights, free speech, the death penalty, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, and involvement in the Yemen conflict.

Saudi authorities refute these claims, emphasizing their bid’s aim to modernize, grow sports, inspire youth, boost tourism, diversify the economy for a post-oil future, and unify. They point to progress in women’s football, their successful hosting of various events, the rise of the Saudi Pro League, ownership of Newcastle United, and forthcoming events like the Club World Cup and AFC Asian Cup.

Despite Saudi Arabia’s richer footballing history compared to Qatar, Pro League club attendances have dwindled this season. Saudi Arabia’s uncontested bid for the 2034 World Cup will intensify scrutiny on FIFA’s processes, with concerns over transparency and accountability.

FIFA’s recent decision to expedite the 2034 bidding process, limiting it to Asia or Oceania, exacerbated these concerns. This follows the approval of the 2030 tournament jointly hosted by Europe, Africa, and South America, leading to their disqualification from the 2034 bid. Saudi Arabia swiftly declared its candidacy, gaining support from the Asian Football Confederation.

Hosting the 2034 FIFA World Cup in Saudi Arabia, it reflects the meticulous planning, investments in infrastructure, geopolitical significance, football’s growing influence, abundant financial resources, FIFA’s commitment to diversity, and the celebration of culture and heritage that are central to Saudi Arabia’s bid.

As Saudi Arabia prepares to host the 2034 World Cup, football fans worldwide can anticipate a tournament that not only showcases the beauty of the game but also offers a unique opportunity to explore and appreciate the rich culture and history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


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