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Israel to broadcast 2018 FIFA World Cup to Arab states for free

Egyptian fans celebrate after beating Congo during the 2018 World Cup group E qualifying soccer match at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria, Egypt, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. Egypt won 2-1.
AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty
One Egyptian television commentator described the Israeli move as a welcome "slap in the face for Qatar"

One of the most watched events in the world, the FIFA World Cup, will be broadcast for the first time in Arabic-speaking nations for free by a rather unusual source: the Israeli Broadcast Authority.

A post on the Arabic-language Facebook page of the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that the FIFA matches would be broadcast via satellite on Israel’s national broadcaster, Kan.

“The Israeli channel Makan [Arabic for ‘Kan’] will broadcast the World Cup in Arabic for free in a historic step that confirms the status of the Arabic language and Israel's respect for it,” the post said.

The Israeli Broadcasting Authority reportedly paid roughly $7.8 million to purchase the rights to broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup. For millions of soccer fans, in countries like Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, the only way to watch the World Cup is through Qatar’s beIN Sports channel. The cost is $45 per household, a fee that is cost-prohibitive for many in the region.

Egypt, though it qualified for the 2018 tournament, did not purchase the rights to broadcast the games. In the past, the Qatari network Al-Jazeera provided a subscription package allowing viewers to watch the games. The channel, however, has been banned in Egypt since 2013.

One Egyptian television commentator described the Israeli move as a welcome "slap in the face for Qatar," according the Jerusalem Post. Another Egyptian anchor, Ahmed Mussa, told his audience that Israel could transmit messages to the Arab world through its broadcasts.

"There's no difference - Israel and Qatar are both enemies for me," he said.

Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup, set to begin on June 14 in Moscow, and held in 11 cities across Russia, will feature four Arabic-speaking countries: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. This year features the most Arab countries of any World Cup, besting the previous record of three during the 1986 and 1998 tournaments.

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