As Arabia is now a reality. Diario As's new, Arabic-language website was officially launched in an event held at the Spanish Football Federation's headquarters in Las Rozas, Madrid, on Thursday. Due to cater for readers across 25 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, it has been made possible by the partnership between Grupo Prisa and Qatar's Dar Al-Sharq Group.
One of the key features of As Arabia will be its coverage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The secretary general of the tournament's organising committee, Hassan Al Thawadi, was unable to be at the event - which was hosted by the journalist Dani Garrido - but sent a video message welcoming the website's creation. "I'd like to thank Diario As and Dar Al-Sharq for the invitation, and apologise for not being able to attend. It has coincided with the Education Forum organised by her royal highness Sheikha Mouza. I'd like to thank you for your continuing support. I hope that the future sees this cooperation continue and go from strength to strength. I hope to be with you soon in Madrid. I wish you much luck," he said.
The centrepiece of the presentation was a discussion led by Pedro Zuazua, head of communication at Prisa Noticias, on As Arabia and the 2022 World Cup. As's editor-in-chief, Alfredo Relaño, said: "Sport is a higher activity. It is the exaltation of the physical and moral virtues of the species. It has gone from being a spectacle which could be compared to cinema back in the 20th century, to being an utterly unique spectacle now. It is humankind's favourite space. As Arabia will provide a window into how sport is seen there [in the Arab world], and will help foster further understanding between communities."
Meanwhile, Dar Al-Sharq CEO Abdul Latif Al Mahmoud expressed his delight at the launch of As Arabia: "It's an opportunity to keep the Arab world up to date on news in the region and from around the world. When we met representatives of Grupo Prisa, we felt that this was a great opportunity. They have extensive experience. The interest in sport in the region is massive. There isn't a single Qatari who doesn't know anything about Spanish or European football."
Gianni Mirlo, the president of the International Sports Press Association, said: "The evolution that sports journalism is undergoing is huge. Noone knows what the future could bring. That's why partnerships such as this between As and Dar Al-Sharq are good news. Sport goes hand in hand with education and culture, which are so important."
Among the notable guests at the event were Spain's secretary of state for sport, José Ramón Lete, the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco, and Spanish Football Federation sporting director Fernando Hierro. "The launch of this project is very important for Spanish journalism," declared Blanco. "Let's hope it's the first of many; it speaks volumes for the good health that Spanish sport and the country's media are in."
Also present was Qatar's ambassador to Spain, Mohammed Jaham Al Kuwari, who spoke of the importance of the creation of an outlet of this nature: "It is a bridge to bring young Arab people together. Football is a passion, something that truly unites all of them. We have the World Cup in Qatar coming up in four years, and it will be an opportunity for people to visit us and get to know us."