2022 host Qatar welcomed Saudi Arabia’s desire to bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup.
Saudi Arabia’s vice minister of sport lauded Qatar’s successful 2022 World Cup and expressed a desire for his nation to experience similar sporting madness on their home soil as they bid to host the tournament in 2034.
FIFA recently called for proposals from the Asian and Oceania regions, establishing an unprecedented tight deadline of October 31.
Qatar made history as the first Arab and Muslim country to host the FIFA World Cup in the November-December slot, and Saudi Vice minister of Sport Bader Alkadi took the opportunity to shower praise on the 2022 host country.
Drawing a parallel with the pride felt for Saudi Arabia’s monumental victory over Argentina in the World Cup 2022, Alkadi stated at the Leaders sports conference in London: “and Qatar … we’re proud of what other countries have done delivering an excellent World Cup.”
“Definitely we want to have this at home. And we want to ensure that we develop our country to host at a high standard such events.”
Addressing the unique fan experience in Qatar, which notably excluded the sale of alcohol in stadiums, Alkadi praised his Qatari counterparts, saying, “And that’s something honestly we applaud our colleagues and Qatar for, for going through and definitely proving that it is a possibility [and it] is something that we would want to repeat.”
He did not clarify whether this would entail permitting alcohol in fan zones and hotels, as was the case in Qatar, which was deemed the ‘most family-friendly’ World Cup.
However, Saudi Arabia’s pursuits have not been without their critics, who accuse the nation of leveraging its sovereign wealth of “sportswashing” in light of the mounting criticisms over its human rights record.
The kingdom has vehemently denied any human rights abuses, asserting that their laws are in place to protect national security.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS, who has recently faced scrutiny over these claims, expressed his unwavering dedication to funding sport, highlighting the contribution it makes to the country’s GDP.
MbS has dismissed allegations of ‘sportswashing’ and has said he will continue funding sport if it adds to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Alkadi echoed the same sentiments, explaining that the substantial investments in sport serve to enhance the lives of the Saudi population.
“Well, that would have been a difficult question [sportswashing] before the crown prince answered it. It’s not difficult anymore. So definitely whatever we do in sports, we do it for our people,” Alkadi said.
“And the numbers speak for themselves in terms of the growth in mass participation in terms of the focus on elite athletes.”
Despite being 11 years away, FIFA gave all interested bidders only four weeks to confirm their proposal for the 2034 world tournament, setting a tight October 31 deadline for bidders.
Usually, interested countries are given a long period to consider bids, especially since the men’s tournament was expanded to 48 teams from 32 following the last World Cup in Qatar.
2022 host Qatar has also welcomed Saudi Arabia’s desire to bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses the hope of the State of Qatar that the Saudi endeavours will culminate with winning the right to host this major international football event,” a Qatar foreign ministry statement read earlier this month.