What does NEOM do in soccer? / Spanish Super Cup / Final / Real Madrid-Barcelona / SOFOOT.com

Spectators of the (television) final of the Spanish Super Cup which Real will play against Barça this Sunday, will not be able to miss Neom, the official partner of the competition. For the Saudi authorities, the promotion of the pharaoh’s futuristic megalopolis, which will be seen in 2030, also involves football.

A combination of the Greek word “neo” for new, and “m” for “moustaqbal” (“future” in Arabic), Neom was everywhere during this Spanish Super Cup. Official partner of the competition, the company name appears on billboards courtside, on the ground in front of the turn, and the font is even larger than the tournament name. It was also the only thing that caught the eye outside the box, during the semi-finals between Real Madrid and Valencia, and Real Betis and Barça, because the atmosphere at the King Fahd Stadium was so gloomy.

“I wouldn’t be surprised that in the coming months, we see a sign near a page promoting Neom in Saint-James Park. The owners are the same, so why not? » Mohamed Badine El Yattioui, Professor of International Relations

Football, the ideal means of communication

The Neom city project was grandly inaugurated by Crown Prince Mohamed Ben Salman last July. Located in the desert in the northwest of the country, the city will form along a major axis, which is called the “Line” and should be 170 kilometers long. 500 billion dollars will be needed to build this ultra-modern city, without roads or cars. And a major communications operation in the sport of kings, for his reputation. We have to impress the whole world. “NEOM Stadium will be suspended, and will be 300 meters high” , announced Nadhmi Al-Nasr, project director and ambitious, on November 30. And Neom is not waiting for Real and Barça to come to Riyadh to set foot in football.

He first turned to Asia. In 2021, a partnership was signed with the Asian Football Federation (AFC), through Football Marketing Asia, the exclusive marketing partner of continental football’s premier body. Thanks to this contract, all continental competitions will be branded Neom: 2023 Asian Cup, 2022 Women’s Asian Cup, U23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan, 2022 World Cup qualifying matches, etc. The project’s chief thinker has no difficulty assuming their strategy. On his network, Neal Coupland, Director of Partnerships, admits: “Football is an ideal platform for developing a brand image. » And for the dollar faucet that allowed the city to rise from the ground, it’s the same that brought Newcastle back to life: the PIF (Public Investment Fund). “I wouldn’t be surprised that in the coming months, we see a sign near a page promoting Neom in Saint-James Park. The owners are the same, so why not? » explained Mohamed Badine El Yattioui, professor of International Relations at the United Arab Emirates American University.

“For us, Neom is built on our blood, on our bones. » Activist Alia Hayel Aboutiya al-Huwaiti

A damaged image internationally

In terms of image promotion, the Saudi Crown Prince, MBS, has a particularly close example, in neighboring Qatar. The organization of the 2022 World Cup, the takeover of PSG by QSI (Qatar Sports Investments), the signing of superstars Messi and Neymar, etc. Doha has gone into overdrive in football, to diversify its economy and break away from dependence on hydrocarbons. “The Saudis now also want their World Cup in 2030 (co-hosted by Egypt and Greece), having offered Newcastle, and brought Cristiano Ronaldo to Al-Nasr” , he continued. Not to mention the appointment of Leo Messi last May as tourism ambassador. Areas where PIF is particularly active. And for Qatar, it is a matter of restoring its tarnished international image. And MBS knows it.

The project nearly died after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in September 2018. “No one will invest in this project for years” he admitted, in reported comments, in December of the same year in “very serious terms.” Financial timing. Finally, investors and partners ignore it. This was enough to worry the 20,000 members of the Huwaitat tribe who had to pack up for the project to materialize. “For us, Neom is built on our blood, on our bones” been regretted in 2020, in Guardian, activist Alia Hayel Aboutiya al-Huwaiti. The face of these protests, Abdul-Rahim Al-Huwaiti, was found dead in his home in April 2020. The Saudi authorities, for their part, mentioned in a press release that it was he who opened fire on security forces. . But in the news, the Falcons’ brilliant victory against Argentina in the World Cup was more excited than the claims of those who did not want to leave their homeland. As well as Al-Hilal’s two titles in the Asian Champions League in 2019 and 2021. This week, most of the (television) Clásico viewers don’t even know his name. On the other hand, they’ll see this dozens of times: Neom.

By Ashraf Tijani

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