Yemen Scores Positive Press With International Soccer Tournament

Kuwait won the tournament, but good publicity for Yemen made it a winner as well. AFP Photo/Karim Sahib

A soccer tournament with teams from eight Persian Gulf states ended well for Yemen, a New York Times article says, even though its national team lost in the first round.

It was “a concerted effort by Yemen’s government to change the country’s image as an insurgent battleground and wellspring of global terrorism plots, including an attempt in October to send explosive packages to the United States,” the story says.

The well-guarded two-week event was the result of months of lobbying from Yemen’s president, according to the article, to get “reluctant Arab leaders to send their teams to a country that has become known for bloodshed and insurrection.” A stadium used in the games was in Abyan Province, which the article notes has seen recent Al Qaeda violence against Yemini soldiers and police.

The positive PR allegedly cost the government $600 million; efforts included 30,000 police officers and soldiers, hotel renovations and a dozen new hotels to accommodate 500,000 Gulf Cup fans.

Meanwhile, FIFA last week awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, bringing the event for the first time to the Middle East.