— Published 7 January 2021

The end of a conflict of more than three years

A decisive step in the preparation of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? Likely. Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday, January 5, the signing of an agreement that could end the conflict of more than three years in the Gulf, during which several countries in the region (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt) have severed their relations with Qatar. For FIFA, the announcement of the deal sounds like very good news. The international body had started working on an enlarged World Cup to 48 teams (instead of 32 in the current format), with meetings organised in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A feasibility study had been carried out by the international football body. But such a project, carried and supported without reservation by Gianni Infantino, came up against the political situation in the Gulf and the boycott of Qatar by its neighbours. The idea was therefore abandoned in the spring of 2019. Will it become topical again? According to some sources, quoted by Reuters, there are no plans to come out of the boxes for a 48-team World Cup, although Gianni Infantino has met with political leaders in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in recent days. However, the end of the conflict could greatly facilitate the organisation of the World Cup in 2022. It will indeed allow spectators from the Gulf countries to buy tickets and travel to Qatar during the tournament, scheduled for the month of December. It will also make it possible to organise training camps for qualified teams in countries neighbouring Qatar, and even friendly matches. Finally, the resumption of relations between Doha and its neighbours will significantly broaden the scope of accommodation possibilities for fans from all over the world, particularly in Dubai, where the hotel base is considerable. Gianni Infantino is not mistaken. “This will be the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and the Arab world, a unique opportunity for the whole region to unite and shine on the world stage”, said the Swiss leader.