Israel’s Broadcasting Authority (Kan) has made the historic move of buying the rights to broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Arabic for almost $7.8 billion.

Soccer match in Jerusalem

Soccer match in Jerusalem Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Israel’s Foreign Ministry, on its official Arabic Facebook page “Israel Speaks Arabic,” announced that Israeli television will be broadcasting the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Arabic to its neighboring countries. Previously, a Qatari-owned network, beIN, held a monopoly on Arabic broadcasts for sports events, including the highly-popular FIFA World Cup.

The Foreign Ministry stated in its announcement that this “is a historic move that ensures the standing of the Arabic language and Israel’s respect for it.” These broadcasts will reach Arab-speaking audiences in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank. This year, teams from Egypt as well as Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia qualified for the next round.

While the Israeli broadcast is free, the Qatari one costs around $45 to set up per family. Reactions in the Arab world have been mixed. While some viewed this as a break in Qatar’s monopoly on broadcasting to Arab sports fans, others on Egyptian television told their viewers to be wary of what Israel could broadcast along with the World Cup. Comments on social media were also divided, with many excited for the chance to see the tournament, while others weary of Israeli media influence.

Israel qualified for the World Cup only once, in 1970, and therefore will not be playing in the 2018 competition. Egypt, on the other hand, will make its third appearance when the games begin this June, and Iran will be making an appearance as well.