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Football World Cup hailed win for sportswashing, Saudi Arabia plots host bid

Newshub logo Newshub 20/12/2022 Ross McNaughton

Argentina's victorious football team touched down in Buenos Aires on their return home on Tuesday.

Their remarkable win over France capped off a tournament FIFA president Gianni Infantino called the best ever.

But the tournament's also being called a victory for sportswashing.

And Qatar's neighbours are keen for the Football World Cup to return to the Middle East in 2030.

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It might be the early hours of the morning in Argentina, although time is somewhat meaningless when you've been waiting 36 years to welcome your team home as World Champions.

Argentina's heart-stopping final triumph has been seen as a welcome distraction for a nation in economic crisis.

But sport has always had the power to obscure uncomfortable truths, a fact Qatar and Infantino have been happy to embrace.

"Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making this the best FIFA World Cup ever, and for showing us that football unites the world," said Infantino.

The greatest World Cup final of all time erased the pre-tournament controversy.

"You could argue that the sportswashing project, which Qatar has invested unprecedented amounts of money in, has been at least - in the short term - successful," University of Guelph Professor Alan McDougall said.

And that sportswashing could continue. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was seen with Infantino, and has no doubt been taking notes.

The Kingdom is expected to launch a bid to host the 2030 Football World Cup.

What's more it could get an assist from Lionel Messi.

Argentina's captain is already an ambassador for Saudi tourism in a deal reportedly worth tens of millions of dollars a year.

But even if he does become Lionel of Arabia, he'll forever be Messia of Argentina after delivering them football's ultimate prize.

And right now for their fans that's worth more than money can buy.

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