Football in the Arab World, European championship, & World Cup 2022
By: Noureldin Mohamed/Arab America Contributing Writer In the Arab World, football has been halted in countries like Egypt. Egypt’s COVID-19 toll of infections has risen to 14,229 with 680 deaths. However, Egypt’s Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbuly, has said that football could return in mid-June. On the other hand, a division two soccer player has turned to an alternative job as a street vendor in a pastry shop. Mahrous Mahmoud’s lost his main income of $200 per month. So, he turned to make Ramadan pastries during the pandemic. “I have to feed my family,” says the Second Division Egyptian football player. Mahmoud helps his family in Manfalut, 350 km (230 miles) from the capital city, Cairo.
The Arab/Arab-American players of the MLS
As for Major League Soccer in the United States, COVID-19 has also been stopped since March 12th. MLS players were concerned, but unlike the Arab football leagues, they still received paychecks despite the stay-at-home orders.
The MLS encompasses Arab players like Mohamed El Monir, a defender for Los Angeles FC from Libya, and Egyptian Amro Tarek who plays as a left-back for the New York Red Bulls. Nonetheless, it seems that the Arab-Muslim players will spend Ramadan training, as players returned to voluntary training on May 6. This does not cancel out coaches like Zak Abdel of Egyptian descent who is a Goalkeeper Coach for Los Angeles FC and is also training amid the epidemic. Soony Saad, Lebanese American forward of the sporting Kansas City recently moving to the Ansan team of the Korean League 2 is looking forward to going back to playing football again.
Good News for Football
For some good news, things are looking bright as clubs around the world resume closed group training with COVID-19 precautions. Clubs in Italian league Serie, Spanish La Liga, and German Bundesliga have already begun training and due to come back any time soon. Is there any ounce of hope peaking through for international football?
World Cup 2022 UPDATE
The World Cup, the most internationally watched competition in the world is under threat of being canceled as well. The next World Cup in 2022 is set to take place in Qatar from Nov. 21- Dec. 18th. However, many have doubts if it will ever take place with the pandemic and social distancing regulations put into place. The World Cup 2022 is in danger of being halted because of the irregular calendar of football. Taking place in one of the smallest Arab countries, Qatar, COVID-19 has spread massively there as well.
According to the Qatari Ministry of Public Health, there are 35,606 reported infections since the start of the pandemic, with 15 deaths to date and recovery of 5,634. The Supreme committee responsible for delivering the tournament has put out a statement that one of the 2022 World Cup ambassadors, Adel Khamis, has tested positive for the virus. Khamis is one of the public faces of the 2022 tournament along with fellow ambassadors Tim Cahill of Australia and Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez.
Another competition postponed?
Another organization in close contact with FIFA and with almost similar goals to it, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) also announced a delay of the Euro 2020. Struggling to meet because of the novel virus this summer, the governing body has set to initially meet for June 17th. Not only will European competitions be postponed, but financial implications have been a burden on UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin. On the bright side, Čeferin hopes to continue the Champions League competition amid European easing of COVID-19 restrictions. In an interview with Portuguese sports daily record on Wednesday, “Our plan is to finish it between now and the end of August.”
Sports, in general is continuing to gain more importance in the Arab world. However, football still seems to be the inevitable superior to the sports dilemma. It is no surprise that the most watched and televised competition in the world is the FIFA World Cup. The tournament brings diversity, inclusion, and introduced the ‘no racism’ campaign around the world. It has given a wide platform for cultural exchange and sports education among the Eastern and Western Hemisphere.
Arab-American Western Sport & Culture Exchange
Arab-Western cultural exchange is also introduced through sports. The American sport of baseball is brought to Egypt, just as Arabian Peninsula camel racing was brought to the U.S.
The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations hosted an online discussion that included key sport committees and government figures from the United States and the Arab World. The sponsored discussion was set to talk about the benefits of the cultural exchange through sports, as well as the United States government’s role in playing a part of the introduction of new sports in the Arab region. The discussion also included mentoring programs, coaching, and safety precautions in sports. Key Arab-American figures like Egyptian born Abdel Nader of the Oklahoma Thunder was present with the state department, which held a discussion about sports in Arab-American culture and influence on future generations.
Check out the Video Discussion below:
So What’s Next For Football?
Although the case seems to be undecided about when sporting life will resume normally, esports has taken the stage. Popularity for the esports has been common, but a chance to gain importance and be included in competitions among players all around the world is inevitable at this point. The decision for football to come back around the globe will require adjustments to rules, regulations, and Financial Fair Play when it comes to transfer markets. With COVID-19 still a cause of concern for the world, it seems that football bodies, organizations, and leagues will have to create a plan to return to the normal game of football/soccer that we love and enjoy.
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