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Qatari Revenge At The FIFA World Cup

Al-Jazeera, Qatar, June 18

The 2018 FIFA World Cup games that opened in Russia last week have certainly lived up the excitement that surrounded them, offering viewers dramatic and thrilling matches. In the Middle East, in particular, there was a major build-up ahead of the tournament, in part because of the broad Arab participation, with teams from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others Arab states vying for the title of world champion. The World Cup has also been interesting on the political level, since it is the first international event hosted by Russia following its annexation of Crimea and military takeover of Syria. Both of these events left Moscow at odds with others in the international arena, so the fact that Russia is now receiving this kind of global attention should not be taken for granted. One of the interesting games so far was the one held between the Saudi and Russian teams, resulting in a humiliating 0-5 loss for Riyadh. Given the Saudi team’s poor historical performance in the World Cup—no more than two victories to date—this defeat was not entirely shocking. But it represented symbolic payback for a country drunk on power that has abused its authority in the Middle East, especially as regards its blockade on Qatar. One observing the match could not help but notice the sponsorship boards surrounding the field, which proudly boasted the logo of Qatar’s national airline. Indeed, Qatar Airways entered into an agreement with FIFA to become the principal sponsor of the tournament, making Doha’s presence in this global event, to Saudi Arabia’s dismay, more prominent. To the avid soccer fans out there I say: enjoy the matches. Yet don’t be mistaken, as the competition extends beyond the playing field. And in the contest between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it is clear that the former has won. – Hasan Abu-Hanina

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