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The Host & ‘Unwanted’ Guests

Qatar, which is all set to host the FIFA World Cup in November-December 2022, has once again stood by Palestine, as the peninsular Arab nation has removed Israel from the official FIFA World Cup hospitality booking website, replacing it with the phrase Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Israeli football lovers have been confused while booking tickets for World Cup matches online, as they have failed to find the option Israel on the official website of the Governing Body of World Football. Instead of Israel, they need to select Palestine in the updated list in order to successfully book tickets. As per the conventional norm, football fans from different countries can only book tickets only after registering via the official FIFA World Cup website.

The FIFA Website

Earlier, Qatar, as the host nation of the mega sports event, signed an agreement with FIFA according to which Doha would have to treat every nation equally, without deleting their names or flags. In the month of June, Israel confirmed that it would grant its citizens permission to visit Qatar for watching the World Cup matches, although the two West Asian nations have no formal diplomatic relations. However, Qatar replaced the name of Israel with Occupied Palestinian Territories, after fans called for the ban of Israel amidst the conflict with Palestine. The demand is similar to the ban on Russia for invading neighbouring Ukraine.

In June (2022), FIFA decided to allow Israeli football fans to purchase tickets for the World Cup and to enter Qatar. It would have been the first time people of Israel shall be allowed to enter Qatar without using foreign passports. In a statement, the official hospitality service provider for the World Cup, Winterhill Hospitality, mentioned that the Hayya card would be used as a fan identity, as well as an entry visa for the nation, which would be accepted throughout the competition.

Meanwhile, the Israeli fans, now, find it difficult to contact their nearest agent in order to get all arrangements done to enjoy World Cup matches in Qatar through the official FIFA website. After choosing Asia & Middle East from the world map, buyers have to select a dropdown list for narrowing their choices further. However, Israel is not among the dozens of countries listed, even in the section for Europe. Hence, the Israeli fans are in deep trouble.

Experts in foreign relations have opined that pressure from sporting events has helped push new diplomatic horizons for Israel in the Gulf. The UAE started allowing the Israeli flags to be shown and anthem to be heard during sporting events in 2018, a couple of years before agreeing to establish ties with Israel. With this, Abu Dhabi ended its longstanding policy towards Israel, shared with most other Arab Nations. However, Qatar is yet to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. Although Qatar had hosted an Israeli Trade Office from 1995 to 2000, it has no plan to join other Gulf nations in establishing full diplomatic ties with Israel mainly because of its friendship with Iran. Now, the Israeli football fans are paying the price for occupying the Palestinian territories, forcibly, and torturing the Palestinians.

It may be noted that FIFA hospitality packages include accommodations, tickets for a match, as well as additional benefits, like access to a reception. Prices run from USD 950 to USD 6,700, depending on which round of the tournament is being played.

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