The Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday that for the first time Israel will broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup via satellite free of charge to Arab nations in the Middle East complete with pre-game discussion and live commentary in Arabic.
Though Egypt qualified for the soccer tournament, along with Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, the country did not purchase the rights to broadcast the games. In previous years, viewers had to purchase a subscription to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network to watch the games.
This year Egyptians, Jordanians and others in the region will be able to watch an Arabic satellite transmission free of charge via Israel’s national broadcaster, Kan.
قناة مكان الإسرائيلية المجانية ستبث مباريات المونديال بالعربية في خطوة تاريخية تؤكد مكانة اللغة العربية واحترام إسرائيل لها.الصورة من ويكبيديا
According to the Egypt Independent news site, Kan purchased the rights for €6.3 million ($7.8 million).
When it was announced on Egyptian television, several critics were angry that Israel would broadcast to a large Arab population, with one television host suggesting that Israel may use the broadcasts to send other messages to the country. But many soccer fans were looking forward to watching the games, leaving messages on social media praising Israel for the move.
In June 2017, Egypt, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, cut ties with Qatar saying the country supported terrorism, and its network Al-Jazeera was banned in 2013. Qatar is scheduled to host the next World Cup in 2022.
Having four Arab countries in the competition represents a significant boost for North African and Middle Eastern soccer, with a previous high of three occurring in 1986 and 1998.
In addition to the four Arab states, Iran, which qualified as a representative of the Asian Football Confederation, will also be playing in the 2018 competition.
The World Cup will be held in Russia June 14-July 15.