The World Cup: Politics, Petrol & Power


How Middle Eastern aristocrats learned to flex and why the West appears unable to push back

Even if you are not an avid football fan, most likely you’ve noticed that, for the first time, the World Cup is being played in the Middle East—specifically in the tiny state of Qatar—and that there have been all sorts of controversies to do with that.

In no particular order:

Gianni Infantino, the President of FIFA, gave a surreal hour-long interview, seemingly to try to defend Qatar’s human rights and LGBTQ rights abuses (criticism has been levied on the death toll of the migrants building the World Cup stadiums) by accusing the West of being hypocritical.

Then there was the whole flip-flopping on buying alcohol in the stadiums.

Then there was extraordinary fact that Saudi Crown Prince MBS—who, in 2017, joined forces with UAE premier MBZ and Egypt and Blockade to blockade their ultra-wealthy rival Qatar—showed up to the World Cup Opening and, grinning, clutched hands with Qatar’s ruler Emir Tamim Al-Thani for photographers.

This despite the fact that, owing to a dispute over the TV rights, Saudis cannot watch the football live—which makes it doubly ironic that Saudi Arabia won a football match against Argentina!

Apparently, the Saudis are so amped up, they are flocking into Qatar to watch the games. And now the Saudi club Al Nassr is trying to buy UK superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Noticeably absent from the action in Doha is MBZ, who reportedly wanted the World Cup to happen in the UAE. “He’s not public-facing like MBS, and you never know—depending on who is in the final, he might go for that,” a source told me.

But who did show up regardless of who was winning on the football field? The U.S.’s Middle-East-Beneficiary-in-Chief Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump.

But what does it all mean for you in your armchair at home?

Find out at “Vicky Ward Investigates.”