Having spent the last three years in Doha playing for Al Sadd, midfield maestro Xavi is convinced Qatar will be ready well ahead of time to host the 2022 World Cup. Xavi was part of Spain’s four World Cup squads, including the triumphant one in 2010, and knows a thing or two about what it takes to host the biggest sporting spectacle in the world.
And from what he has seen from close quarters, the former Barcelona star believes Qatar should have no problem hosting the showpiece football event.
“I am the ambassador of Supreme Committee and I think they are ready. The Qatar national team and country both are ready. You can see such amazing stadiums. Everybody is surprised by the way Qatar is organising everything,” said Xavi on Saturday at the design launch event for Lusail Stadium, the venue for the opening and final matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The 38-year-old also felt that Qatar’s national team is heading in the right direction and praised coach Felix Sanchez’s side for their recent performances in the friendlies against higher-ranked teams, Switzerland and Iceland.
“I think they are preparing very well but it’s too early to make a prediction. The team are in a good way, they are doing well. They have a very good coach in Felix Sanchez. He is a brilliant coach so they can compete. Let’s see how they do at the Asian Cup in January. They have a culture of football. They are ready to compete. Everybody can see that in the last games they won against Switzerland and drew with Iceland. So they are ready and they have time four years more,” Xavi said.
Xavi, who won 133 caps for Spain, has been tipped to be the Qatar coach in 2022. He is in his final year of his contract with Al Sadd and the midfielder spoke on what he intends to do in future once he decides to hang up his boots.
“I am preparing as a coach, maybe next season I will start as a coach. At the moment, I am still a player at Al Sadd,” he said.
Meanwhile, former the Netherlands star Wesley Sneijder, who is currently plying his trade for Qatar Stars League club Al Gharafa, said the World Cup in Qatar would be an experience in itself for fans across the world.
“It (The World Cup in Qatar) won’t be different. The only difference is that you can now watch three games in the same day. So all these kind of things are an advantage. Let’s take for example Brazil, South Africa and Russia, it was impossible to travel to watch all the games in three days. Now you have this advantage and for sure the organisation will be perfect,” said Sneijder.
“The changes that I have seen over one year, it’s amazing. The roads, the parks that they are building, they are really making Qatar better and ready for the 2022 World Cup,” he added.
Former Netherlands and Ajax international Frank de Boer said the weather will not be an issue at the 2022 World Cup and backed Qatar to outdo Russia, which hosted the most recent edition earlier this year.
“I don’t see any problem with the weather. Right now outside it is 18-25 degrees Celsius, which is perfect for playing football. So I am not worried about it. The most beautiful thing is it is so compact. You can see three games in one day. The most important thing is that you can feel that there is a World Cup going on,” the former Inter Milan manager said.
“In Russia, they did a great job but it is so spread out that you don’t really feel that a World Cup is going on. A World Cup should be for the fans. What I experienced in South Africa, in Johannesburg where so many teams were together and fans celebrating the World Cup. We are going to experience this even more,” he added.
His twin brother, Ronald de Boer, who lived in Doha for seven years, said Qatar is a football-crazy nation and that the World Cup has come to the right place. “People here adore football. There (is) still lots of miscommunication in the world, so it’s a great opportunity to show the world what Qatar is all about,” said Ronald, who played for Al Rayyan and Al Shamal in the mid 2000s.
By Sahan Bidappa
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019