The Saudi Citizen: The Biggest Tool of Soft Power!
Saudi Arabia's national soccer team gathers before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match with Argentina at Lusail Stadium on November 22, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Saudi Citizen: The Biggest Tool of Soft Power!

Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, December 1

While the Saudi government spent millions of dollars and many years of work in an effort to strengthen its “soft power” abroad, the most significant change in the world’s perception of Saudi Arabia actually happened thanks to the average Saudi citizen. The World Cup games changed the face of Saudi Arabia forever. As Saudi masses flocked to Qatar to attend the World Cup games, the kingdom’s true – and beautiful – nature was finally shared with the world. This wasn’t the product of ministries concerned with improving the kingdom’s reputation, nor of institutions that are supposed to work day and night to build Saudi soft power abroad. Rather, it was spontaneous behavior of Saudi football fans swooping up, with their sincerity, the hearts of other fans from around the world. The Saudi fans amazed the Western media, which couldn’t help but wonder: Are these the very same Saudi people we’re busy attacking day and night? The Arab citizen, who for decades imagined the Saudis as mere Bedouins with money and oil, was surprised. For the first time, the Arab world was able to appreciate the Saudi people, their culture and their history. The impact didn’t end in the Doha stadiums, but rather spread to football fans around the world. A video of a young Saudi man on the Doha metro singing in Spanish to Argentinian fans after their team suffered a defeat spread virally on social media. Viewers were shocked to discover that he was proficient in a language that isn’t Arabic or English. The vitality of the Saudi fans didn’t end there. Those attending the matches will notice that the largest group of fans present in the stadium is Saudi. Indeed, the Saudi chants have become those heard most loudly from the bleachers. Several research centers monitoring social media noted that the use of the emoji of the Saudi flag has grown by over a million during the World Cup. Unbeknownst to the Saudi government, the Saudi football fans proved to be an effective force in spreading the kingdom’s soft power in Western and Arab capitals. They brought their true, unfiltered selves to the streets of Doha – and showed the world the real magic of the Saudi kingdom. – Muhammad Al-Saed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)


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