Israel has purchased the rights to broadcast one of the most popular international sporting events, the FIFA World Cup, to large swaths of the Arab world.
The Israeli Broadcasting Authority (Kan) for the first time bought the rights to broadcast in Arabic the FIFA World Cup, reportedly paying close to $7.8 billion for the privilege.
On its official Arabic Facebook page, “Israel Speaks Arabic,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced the move, noting that the broadcast would be available for free for residents of neighboring Arab countries. Prior to 2018, a Qatari-owned network, beIN, maintained a monopoly on Arabic broadcasts of events such as the World Cup.
Israel’s World Cup broadcasts will reach Arab-speaking football fans in Judea and Samaria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. With teams competing from countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, Israel’s broadcasts could draw massive audiences.
When Qatar’s beIN broadcast the World Cup, it charged each family viewing the event about $45. While Israel’s broadcast will be free, some individuals in the Arab world promoted conspiracies regarding Israel’s decision to air the event.
Others took to social media to express excitement about viewing the event gratis.
Israel did not qualify for the World Cup in 2018, with its only appearance in the international competition occurring in 1970 when the event took place in Mexico. Soccer, or football as it is known in most parts of the world, has been rocked with anti-Semitism scandals recently, with fans denigrating the memory of Holocaust survivors such as Anne Frank and sanctioning bodies accused of promoting anti-Israel agendas.