No, Qatar didn’t just make a fool of themselves at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday. The opening match allowed the host country to display its unity in the stands with its Saudi neighbor, Mohammed bin Salman accompanying the monarch Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the photo. Qatar’s game is above all diplomatic, and he was pleased with his move.

At this moment, night fell on the peninsula. Al Bayt Stadium is plunged into darkness, and the face of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, suddenly appears on the giant screen. A roar seizes the stands. The one who is presented as the new father of the Qatari nation must say a few words at the opening of the 2022 World Cup. Microphone in hand, the thobe shoulders, Al Thani is delighted with the holding of this first World Cup in an Arab country and promises respect for “people of different races, nationalities, creeds and orientations who will come together here in Qatar and around screens on every continent” . Offered to millions of viewers, the image is licked. Like its buildings, Qatar does not skimp on form. In the frame, in the foreground, exhibits another heavyweight of the region: Mohammed bin Salman, regent of Saudi Arabia. Since leading one of the major powers in the Middle East, he’s hardly Qatar’s best friend. A bit of jealousy has crept into the relationship, with Qatar’s successive successes over the past decade: PSG, its gas or its growing leadership on the international scene.

“When Qatar won the organization of the 2022 World Cup, the other petro-monarchies looked gray. » Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot

water in gas

As soon as he came to power in the summer of 2017, MBS imposed an embargo on his neighbor and severed diplomatic relations. “It was a decision above all aimed at putting pressure on Qatar and bringing them into line” , recalls David Rigoulet-Roze, researcher and academic specializing in geopolitical balances in the Middle East. Until the 2000s, it was customary for Qatar to align itself with Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy. However, the peninsula as large as Corsica did not really follow the instructions by postulating the organization of the high mass of football. “When Qatar won the organization of the 2022 World Cup, the other petro-monarchies looked gray” detail Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot, in one of their many books devoted to Qatar, The Secrets of the Vault. So much so that Saudi Arabia had thought, at the height of the blockade, of dumping its nuclear waste at the bottom of the Qatari basement. Vibe.

“This image of the two monarchs of Qatar and Saudi Arabia together confirms the reconciliation and cooperation of the Gulf countries” , notes David Rigoulet-Roze. This is only the second time that the two countries have appeared publicly since the resumption of their diplomatic relations in January 2021. The rapprochement is mainly linked to the international context. “With the demonstrations taking place in Tehran, the petromonarchies are suspicious and prefer to be united in the event of a flare-up” , points the researcher. The rapprochement can also be explained by a movement of solidarity. Shaken by repeated criticism on environmental issues and human rights, Qatar felt it was the target of a form of Islamophobia. “It quickly became clear to us that the campaign persists, extends, that there are slanders and double standards” , was moved Tamin ben Hamad Al-Thani in front of the Parliament on October 25th. Its Minister of Labor even employing the idea of ​​a “racism” deployed against the Gulf countries. Word cheerfully taken up by Gianni Infantino during a press conference on the sidelines of the World Cup, Friday, somewhat lunar.

“With the demonstrations taking place in Tehran, the petromonarchies are suspicious and prefer to be united in the event of a flare-up. » David Rigoulet-Roze

Trash diplomacy

At a time of a certain American decline, Chinese withdrawal and Russian madness, the image aims to prove that the petromonarchies can be at the helm of the world order. The organization of this Mondial always responds to a logic of image and softpower, the evening of Sunday evening is still the incarnation. The net defeat suffered on the lawn against Ecuador is ultimately only secondary: Qatar mainly wanted to win in the stands. In lodges, even. Already experienced in trash diplomacy at the Parc des Princes, the Qatari authorities have repeated the exercise. The composition of the grandstand is always a scrutinized choice, almost as much as the eleven who start the tournament. A friendly president a little too low in the basket, and that’s the start of the problems. An ally put in his preferred position, and you gain his support, at least for the duration of the tournament. If Qatar was weighed down by its players and betrayed by the lack of fervor of its supporters, it was not mistaken about the petits fours and the choice of its distinguished guests.

By Hugo Lallier, in Doha

Source: www.sofoot.com

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