Saudi Arabia hasn’t exactly been subtle about its ambitions when it comes to soccer. That’s included hiring Roberto Mancini to coach the country’s national team and embarking on a massive investment in its domestic soccer league — which has seen a number of high-profile players leave prominent European leagues for massive paychecks there.
That investment prompted plenty of speculation that Saudi Arabia had its sights on hosting the 2034 World Cup — and now, the country has made that official. On Monday, October 9, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation announced that it had taken formal steps towards submitting a bid to host the tournament.
“We are extremely committed to presenting the most competitive bid possible that will also help unite the world through football,” said the organization’s president, Yasser Al Misehal, in a statement.
As the Associated Press’s Graham Dunbar wrote, the 2034 tournament will almost certainly be held in an Asian country, given that the 2030 World Cup will be hosted by six nations across three continents. (Europe, Africa and South America, for the record.) If it seemed likely before that the Gulf state would host the tournament in 2034, it seems even more so now.
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If you didn’t like the idea of Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022, it’s worth pointing out that — as per the nonprofit Freedom House — Saudi Arabia’s ranking on the group’s Freedom in the World Index is actually lower than that of its neighbor. (Both countries fall into the “Not Free” category.) It’s one more high-profile sporting event that seems likely to be grounds for sportswashing — an increasingly frequent sight these days.