The diplomatic crisis sweeping the Gulf could invigorate a campaign by critics of Qatar to strip Doha of the 2022 World Cup, experts said this week,
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen were among those to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on the grounds that Doha supported extremist groups “that aim to destabilise the region”.
One of the areas that could feel the impact is Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup, football’s biggest tournament, in five years’ time.
“This is a massive escalation in pressure on Qatar,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf analyst with the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston. “I think it will really have an impact if it lasts any time.”
Since being controversially chosen by FIFA in 2010 as the host, Qatar has maintained that it is a politically secure nation despite its location in a volatile region.
Doha has also emphasised that the tournament serves the entire Gulf, and not just the tiny gas-rich emirate.
But current events may challenge those notions, Ulrichsen said.
“One of its pitches (to secure the World Cup) was that Qatar is one of the most stable countries in the Middle East,” he told AFP.
With that potentially called into question — and the fact that there are other countries which could host the event at little notice — organisers may be getting anxious, Ulrichsen said.
“Qatar will know that there are alternatives, so they will be looking over their shoulder,” he said.
Suggestions have been made previously that the United States, one of the countries that lost the race for the 2022 competition to Qatar, could take over hosting duties if necessary.
The crisis that erupted on Monday came only a few weeks after US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia to cement ties with Riyadh and called for Muslim countries to unite against extremism.
Meanwhile, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he does not believe the diplomatic crisis involving 2022 World Cup host nation Qatar will threaten its hosting of the tournament.
|In an interview published in Swiss newspapers Le Matin Dimanche and Sonntagszeitung, Infantino said he expects the diplomatic situation to revert back to normal by the time the tournament is played in five and a half years time.|
Asked if he believed that Qatar’s hosting was in danger, Infantino replied: “No. In any case, I am not in the habit of speculating and I’m not going to this time either.”
Infantino said that FIFA was watching the situation and was in regular contact with the Qatari authorities.
“The essential role of FIFA, as I understand it, is to deal with football and not to interfere in geopolitics,” he said.
Qatar will be hosting World Cup between 21 November and18 December 2022, and is scheduled to host multiple events across different sports in the lead-up to the tournament.