More than just football

Hussein Shobokshi
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The Arab world is witnessing a massive outpouring of emotions varying between feelings of joy and sadness triggered by the results of the football teams participating in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Russia.

Every four years, the Arab masses undergo the same feelings in their quest for “honor” of participation and “opportunity” to reach a certain level. It is clear that the main and major problem lies in the “level” of ambition and the limits of its horizons. As long as the level of ambition is confined to mere “participation” and “attendance” with biggies, the performance will remain modest.


In fact football is a burgeoning industry, which provides means of promoting and marketing people and nations with distinction. Europe made the most of these promotional and marketing means in a very scientific and practical way, which is reflected in its important status both in terms of investment flows and tourism revenues. They also increased the “reliability” and the “reputation” of the European products and services as a result of a very positive mental image in the world.

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Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and England were the main beneficiaries with the fall in the performance of the teams coming from South America. Only Brazil and Argentina hogged the limelight in the absence of Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Mexico.

But something is made up in other parts of the world. There is a long-term “planning”, a sought-after influence and a World Cup. These are the most important items of the international roadmap in the USA, Japan, South Korea and China.

The Arab world will continue to live for a long time with the words like “performance”, “honorable representation” and “honor of participation”, which are very isolated and negative

Hussein Shobokshi

Objective follow up

These countries have drawn up long-term plans for the World Cup itself. The plan includes developing local competitions, buying international talent, bringing in global expertise to oversee management and training, participate in strong competitions and invest in international clubs to ensure competitive opportunities and local talent.

And the careful and objective follow-up of the process of these four teams and the large development in their levels in terms of technical and positive results is striking and important.

There are other ambitions from some countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Serbia and Croatia. They are all from the eastern European camp. They are seeking to rejuvenate their talent.

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They seek to do so through creativity and brilliance in football, but their way is different. It will depend primarily on the “export” of talents and competencies in their most important players — clubs of European, American and Asian championships in general.

The Arab world will continue to live for a long time with the words like “performance”, “honorable representation” and “honor of participation”, which are very isolated and negative, and limit ambition and hope, because man succeeds to the extent of his ambition.

There is a big difference between the fact that football is an entertainment tool and a hobby or, as one Arab leader once called it, “they are busy with the football” or dealing with it as one of the most important tools of marketing, promotion and spread of the country itself. The difference separates the winner who knows the difference.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.

(Hussein Shobokshi is a Businessman and prominent columnist. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al Takreer on Al Arabiya, and in 1995, he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his B.A. in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa. His twitter handle is @husseinshoboksh.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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