Spectators of the final (television) of the Spanish Super Cup, where Real will face Barça this Sunday, will not be able to miss Neom, the official partner of the competition. For the Saudi authorities, the promotion of the pharaonic futuristic metropolis, which should see the light of day in 2030, also includes football.
A combination of the Greek words “neo” new and “m” “moustaqbal” (“future” in Arabic), Neom was everywhere during this Spanish Super Cup. The name of the company, the official partner of the race, appears on the advertising boards outside the court, on the ground in front of the turns, and its font is larger than the name of the tournament. As the atmosphere at the King Fahd Stadium was so gloomy, it was the only thing of note outside the green rectangle in the semi-finals between Real Madrid and Valencia, Real Betis and Barça.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see signs in Saint-James Park next to the lawn promoting Neo in the coming months. The owners are the same, so why not? » Mohamed Badine El Yattioui, Professor of International Relations
Football is an ideal means of communication
The Neom city project was inaugurated by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in July last year with great fanfare. To be located in the desert in the north-west of the country, the city will be formed along the main axis called “Line”, which should be 170 kilometers long. 500 billion dollars are needed to build this ultra-modern city without roads or cars. And by its reputation a major communication operation in the royal sport. We have to impress the whole world. The activity of “NEOM” stadiums will be stopped and the height will be 300 meters. , announced on November 30, project director and challenger Nadhmi Al-Nasr. Neom didn’t wait for Real and Barca to come to Riyadh to play football.
An example of the disproportionate ambitions of this plan: the NEOM project with a future “city of the future” called Khatt, 460 km long, connected by public transport and autonomous vehicles, which could host a million inhabitants in 2030. pic.twitter.com/ItkIoZlJpx
— FC Geopolitics (@FCGeopolitics) January 6, 2023
First he turned to Asia. In 2021, a partnership has been signed with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) through Football Marketing Asia, the exclusive marketing partner of the continent’s leading football body. Thanks to this agreement, all continental competitions will be stamped with Neom: 2023 Asian Cup, 2022 Asian Women’s Cup, U23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan, 2022 World Cup qualifiers and more. Thoughtful project managers have no difficulty adopting their own strategy. Neal Coupland, Director of Partnerships, admits to his network: “Football is an ideal platform to develop a brand’s image. » As for the dollar plug that will get the city off the ground, it’s the same one that brought Newcastle back to life: the PIF (Public Investment Fund). “I wouldn’t be surprised to see signs in Saint-James Park next to the lawn promoting Neo in the coming months. The owners are the same, so why not? » Mohamed Badine El Yattioui, Professor of International Relations at the American University of the United Arab Emirates, explains.
“For us, Neom is built on our blood and bones. » Activist Alia Hayel Aboutiya al-Huwayti
Damaged image internationally
In terms of image propaganda, Saudi Crown Prince MBS had a very close example in his neighbor Qatar. The organization of the 2022 World Cup, the acquisition of PSG by QSI (Qatar Sports Investments), the recruitment of superstars Messi and Neymar, etc. Doha has gone too far in football to diversify its economy and wean itself off dependence on hydrocarbons. “The Saudis now want the 2030 World Cup (co-hosted with Egypt and Greece) after the Newcastle bid and bringing Cristiano Ronaldo to Al-Nasr.” , he continues. Not to mention the appointment of Leo Messi as tourism ambassador last May. One area where PIF is particularly active. As for Qatar, it is about restoring its badly tarnished image in the international world. MBS knows this.
His project was almost stillborn after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in September 2018. “No one will invest in this project for many years” He had admitted it very seriously in the comments made in December of the same year Financial Times. Ultimately, investors and partners ignored it. This is enough to worry the 20,000 members of the Huwaytat tribe who will have to rally to make the project a reality. “For us, Neom is built on our blood and bones” It was deplored in 2020 watchman, activist Alia Hayel Aboutiya al-Huwayti. Abdul-Rahim Al-Huwayti, the face of this protest, was found dead in his home in April 2020. Saudi officials, in turn, said in a press release that he was the one who opened fire on the forces. . But in the news, the spectacular victory of the “Hawks” against Argentina in the World Cup caused more noise than the claims of those who did not want to leave their land. Like Al-Hilal’s two Asian Champions League titles in 2019 and 2021. Clasico (television) viewers this Sunday won’t even know his name. On the other hand, they will see it dozens of times: Neom.
By Ashraf Tijani