It is any punter’s dream to have solid insights into the results of a game, especially if it involves the biggest spectacle on earth: The soccer World Cup.
Now before AMEinfo gives you the answer about the winning side at Russia’s upcoming World Cup (WC), let’s start off with a minor result.
“The Russia-Saudi opening game won’t be the dullest game of the WC as some claim,” said Ali Haidary, Founder and CEO of Sport & Entertainment Solutions (SES).
“But it will be a draw; I don’t see anyone winning this one, and I see Saudi moving through to the second round.”
Who is Haidary and why is he talking about soccer with such authority?
Haidary has played a leading role in driving the sports events and entertainment sector in the Middle East, including negotiating Etisalat’s ground-breaking sponsorship deal with Spanish football giant FC Barcelona as well as Cristiano Ronaldo’s unique brand endorsement agreements with Mobily and KFC.
Also, he brought FIFA Beach Soccer to the UAE.
“In 2005, I signed a deal with Beach Soccer Worldwide, the international beach soccer association, to bring the first FIFA world cup qualifiers for 3 years running,” he said.
“In 2008, we reached an agreement with the Dubai Sports Council to basically do the Beach Soccer World Cup in Dubai, and we did the first senior world cup of any type in the UAE in 2009, a 32-match event over 2 weeks attended by 100K plus people.”
There are only four senior soccer events in FIFA which are not under 17, 20, or 23:
1- Senior world cup (like Russia 2018)
3- Women’s WC
4- Beach soccer
That came on the heels of Haidary taking on a regional role for Red Bull, in which he was involved in some of the biggest sporting concepts, from 24-hour Go-Carting races to Formula One.
Born and raised in Great Britain by Iraqi-Lebanese parents, Haidary grew up playing and watching sports at the highest levels, hoping to become an athlete one day; but his dream has never materialized.
“If I wasn’t going to be a professional sportsman, I was surely going to be a professional entertainer,” said Haidary.
In 2009, Haidary was selected to be on the Beach Soccer World Cup’s Local Organising Committee as Head of Competitions.
How does he see WC Russia 2018?
Money is on top teams
Haidary says that TV money is so important, that sponsorship is so big and that it’s important for organizers to keep the big teams until the end of the tournament.
“It’s very strange to see games without Italy or Holland or Chilli, or the US, and the biggest players not playing, but the kinds of seeding in qualifications and again in groups pretty much makes it that the top 16 teams are going to qualify,” he opined.
“In the 2014 WC, there were lots of upsets such as when Costa Rica went through at the expense of Italy, and that made for great TV and live watching.”
He sees Uruguay to be favourites in the Saudi group and describes Russia as one of the weakest hosts to play since South Africa in 2010.
“Saudi has a great team and a good unit playing together and I see them along with Egypt passing the first round,” affirmed Haidary.
Now are you ready for the final result?
And the winner is…
The first official whistle hasn’t blown yet, but we have a pretty good idea of who will win.
It won’t be those gambling on the sport.
“I do believe that there have been lots of mistakes in recent years, but there are developments that are improving such as the new FIFA setup really clearing out the old cadre which was associated with lots of negativity,” said Haidary.
“After 2022, there will be new teams, new qualifying matches, more clarity in selecting host nations, and less of the news we all hear associated with bribes that may have tarnished the reputation of the sport.”
Haidary describes soccer as a both a sports and entertainment venue that is the most in demand and the most passionate product that anyone can ever consume.
“While in the stadium, as a fan or fanatic supporting a team or country, you are being continuously engaged with an interactive product and program,” said Haidary.
“Those fans will go to WC in 2018 irrespective of macro political happenings around them, having forgotten all about that.”
He added: “For 90 minutes, there are two teams, and at any time during the game, the only winner is the fan.”
There you go.
Did you really think that we would know who the match winner of the WC is?
And do we have another prediction?
One more sure fire prophecy
Just as Haidary brought the best of venues during the peak of the 2008 financial crisis, you can be sure that one of Haidary’s predictions will come true.
“Demand will always be there for highest end items. As sports and entertainment are competing for the same customer, SES will be the leading promoter and provider of live entertainment including family and sporting events,” affirmed Haidary.
“We have exclusive rights for Disney on ICE, a lot of theatre concepts at Dubai Opera where we won event of the year for last year’s ‘Les Miserables’, and other exciting events coming up.”
SES sees in Saudi’s opening of entertainment industry a great opportunity to expand over the next 4-5 years, but also in Kuwait, Oman and the Levant region.
“We are a small to medium size company with 15 permanent staff members and consultants, but we can grow up to 200 people or more when hosting a landmark event like Disney on Ice (250 for one week) or the Opera,” Haidary explained.
“A show like Les Miserables, bringing 30-40 containers and 125 performers from the UK, housing them in hotels for a month, training them, and when adding food and drink, advertising, marketing, venue and rights, these become costs in the $10s of millions.”
He concluded: “The expensive nature of these venues just show there is a big demand for them. And if you bring the right concept at the right time and promote them the right way, there is massive demand in the region.”