A World Cup like no other
It is fair to say that the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be the most Arab ever. Four Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco — will compete alongside 28 other nations in Russia.
Their qualification is reason for pride and a rare moment of joy for everyone — but especially for young people — across the Arab world. It lightens and lifts the mood away from anxiety over the woes of the present or the risks that may loom.
There were moments of high drama in the qualifying matches of the Middle East and North African teams. As never before, football brought together factions in bitterly divided Syria, even though it did not ultimately qualify for Russia 2018.
Now, the focus shifts to next summer. The showdowns between the four Arab teams and other major footballing countries are much anticipated. The spotlight will be on Arab athletic performance. Sports enthusiasts across the Arab world will be hoping the four teams turn in performances in this World Cup that improve on results of the past.
The Arab teams will be under scrutiny for reasons that go beyond their talent and ability to win. The players’ conduct and that of their travelling fans will be important, as it always is in the international arena. It is important to remember the world is watching. Considering the level of global media attention, Russia 2018 may shape the world’s image of the Arabs for years to come.