It’s a friendly game like no other. And it is not only linked to the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo on one side and on the other of the trio of PSG stars, Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé or Neymar. While Paris has just conceded two defeats in its last three Ligue 1 outings, the context of such a trip to the Middle East may be surprising. But you don’t have to look far: it’s obviously a question of finance and… geopolitics.
Christophe Galtier will not say. But the PSG coach would surely have preferred to devote this post-Coupe de France week to making his group work instead of offering himself a getaway for a prestigious match against a selection made up of players from the two biggest clubs in the region. capital, al-Nassr and al-Hilal. But if PSG had a hard time picking up the thread from the World Cup, Paris did not go to Ryad in the middle of the season to get back in the right direction. Put things in place in anticipation of the Champions League, his big goal. Or to help its stars regain their physical level.
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This match will benefit PSG financially
If Paris travels to the Middle East, it is in particular because there are great economic benefits at stake. “This match will benefit PSG financially, from a marketing point of view, in terms of exposure in Asia and in particular in the Gulf”, summarizes Jean-Baptiste Guégan, specialist in geopolitics of sport. To challenge, this selection of Arabia Saudi Arabia, baptized Riyad Season Team, the Parisian club should thus already ensure “more than 10 million euros“, according to a source close to the club who confided in AFP. An amount which is not negligible given the finances of the champions of France.
However, this meeting is not just about portfolio management. It is also a symbol for the two countries at the heart of this project, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, owner of the Parisian club via Qatar Sports Investments (QSI). “It is the staging of the new relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia via football. A year and a half ago, it would have been unthinkable to see a match between two selections from Saudi Arabia and Qatar“, remarks Jean-Baptiste Guégan, author of ‘Geology of sport: another explanation of the world’.
PSG training in Qatar
We use football for other purposes
As the 2022 World Cup marked by the presence of Mohammed bin Salman – the crown prince of Saudi Arabia – showed, alongside Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have restored their diplomatic relations since a year. This meeting illustrates it once again. And for Saudi Arabia, it goes even further than that: “This match will above all contribute to developing the Saudi championship. So it is both the staging of relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia but it is also the meeting of two sports strategies, two sports diplomacies, two sports soft power policies“, summarizes Guégan. Eager to catch up with Qatar in its policy of diversification of resources with in particular its program entitled “Vision 2030”, Saudi Arabia is indeed active in setting up an aggressive “sports diplomacy”.
And if the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo is a masterstroke to shine the spotlight on the Saudi championship, this match, with all these stars expected on the ground, is one more opportunity for the Saudi petromonarchy. “Football is used for other purposes. You cannot separate the two. We also clearly see the ambition of Saudi Arabia to use football to catch up with Qatar and boost its championship. And Qatar agrees! We call “competition”“, that is, both competition and competition. All that says a lot about what football has become in the Gulf. It has become a political tool. And a tool for economic diversification, very far from the sporting issue.” And the PSG falls into this logic.
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