Recent news suggests that the prestigious event, Soccer’s World Cup, may find its way back to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has emerged as a frontrunner to host the 2034 tournament, following Australia’s decision not to bid. When Qatar hosted the World Cup in 2022, it was a historic moment as it marked the first time a Middle Eastern nation played host to the global event.
FIFA, the governing body of soccer worldwide, gave countries a mere 25 days to express their interest in hosting the 2034 World Cup. Saudi Arabia wasted no time in proclaiming its bid.
“Our bid is driven by a love for the game and a desire to see it grow in every corner of the world,” stated Yasser Al Misehal, president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made significant investments in sports as a means of enhancing its international presence. According to a recent report by The New York Times, the country has utilized its immense oil wealth to attract top stars to its lucrative soccer league, secure major boxing matches, and even venture into global golf partnerships.
FIFA specifically encouraged bids for the 2034 event from countries in Asia and Oceania, which initially paved the way for Australia to potentially become the host. However, Football Australia, the nation’s soccer organization, ultimately decided against submitting a bid.
“We have carefully evaluated the opportunity to bid for hosting the FIFA World Cup and, after considering all factors, we have concluded that we will not pursue it for the 2034 competition,” announced Football Australia on its official website.
While Saudi Arabia’s bid brings excitement for soccer enthusiasts, it also raises global political concerns regarding the country’s human rights record. Some critics view Saudi Arabia’s sports initiatives as a form of “sportswashing” – an attempt to divert attention away from criticism by using athletics as a distraction.
Looking ahead, the next World Cup is scheduled to take place in 2026 in North America. The hosting duties for this event will be shared by the United States, Canada, and Mexico.