Just as many fans have been grudgingly coming to terms with football’s new reality, Qatar Sports Investments shelled out the £198m to transfer Neymar from Barcelona. This hardly came as a surprise. Neymar is a phenomenal talent. But it is important to understand what lies behind this: governments from across Asia have been targeting football for some time as a means of building their global soft power and boosting their images.
The Moroccan Football Federation has announced it will bid to host the 2026 World Cup. [...] The World Cup has only been hosted once in Africa - in South Africa in 2010 - and this will be Morocco's fifth bid.
"The announcement of Neymar's transfer to PSG was piloted among the high ranks in Qatar as a sort of communications strategy that would overshadow the debate around all other considerations, namely terrorism," said Mathieu Guidere, an expert in the geopolitics of the Arab world.
The renowned Premier Skills initiative run by the Premier League and the British council returns to Cape Town this week as part of their three-year Premier Skills programme. The programme, which started last Saturday and will conclude this Saturday, is taking place at the Ikamva home of Ajax Cape Town with intensive training for 60 grassroots coaches and 24 referees from all over the province.
The match also represented something else: a case study in the globalization of European soccer, with a decidedly Chinese flavor. Both teams were acquired in 2016 by Chinese investors for a total exceeding $1 billion, a capstone to a flurry of Chinese purchases of European soccer clubs over the past two years. [...] China’s big soccer play is of a piece with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream” idea of attaining national greatness
The English Premier League recently signed its biggest deal outside of the U.K. Chinese electronics giant Suning has stumped up £560m for the television rights to broadcast its games to the growing legion of fans there. But it’s not just the size of the agreement that’s eye-catching. It’s a double display of soft power at work: by both China and the U.K.
The 21st century, however, belongs to Football 3.0 (the Asian era). Over the last decade, football has been in the midst of a shift eastwards. Countries including Qatar and states of the United Arab Emirates have built extensive sponsorship portfolios in the West, acquired overseas clubs, and successfully bid to host international tournaments. More recently, China has increased the pace of world football’s ‘Asianisation’.
When Duke head coach Robbie Church found out via email in late March that his team had been invited to Beijing for the seventh annual Consultation on People-to-People Exchange, he was not sure the Blue Devils would be able to participate. [...] But with the opportunity to be the first college women's soccer program involved in the conference—which brings political representatives from both countries together—Church quickly realized the chance was too unique to pass up.