Across the Gulf, in the United Arab Emirates, the Asian Cup is currently taking place. The tournament has reached the latter stages and one of the semi-finalists is the next host of the World Cup. Qatar have virtually no fans present and some of their journalists were denied entry into the UAE. They have progressed to the last four without conceding a goal. Their striker, Almoez Ali, is the tournament’s top scorer. A good showing at this prestigious regional competition will augur well for their chances in three years time, but could politics affect the World Cup in 2022?
Could Politics Affect the World Cup in 2022?
At the moment there are no direct flights between Qatar and the UAE and other Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have severed diplomatic relations, as have various African countries including Egypt and Senegal. If that restriction persists, you can foresee obvious issues when Qatar stage the World Cup. A boycott by significant nations would cause FIFA considerable embarrassment.
FIFA Plan an Expansion of the World Cup
Meanwhile, the aim of FIFA president Gianni Infantino is to make the tournament into a 48-team event and to consider such an expansion for Qatar 2022. Mix in the small size of the country and the evident lack of infrastructure and it’s clear the competition would have to be spread around the region. So how do you do that when there are limited direct links and diplomatic issues?
Fans Mix Together
Back at the Asian Cup, the fans mix happily. Iran can play Iraq before a very noisy crowd in Dubai without any trouble. UAE met India before a packed stadium in Abu Dhabi, but some of the other matches were watched by very small crowds. At times fans were given free tickets in order to fill up the grounds. Overall the promotion of the tournament felt limited. The World Cup is another story but, for it to work successfully in Qatar, the political issues will need to be resolved.