Xavi’s story about Qatar 2022 and other matters
By Xavi Hernández, global ambassador for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and 2010 World Cup winner with Spain
For a footballer, nothing compares to winning the FIFA World Cup. It’s a mesmerising, life-changing moment – even if you have spent your entire career in the spotlight. Our moment of victory in Johannesburg in 2010 will remain with my teammates and I forever, along with every Spanish person across the world.
I recently attended the design launch for Lusail Stadium, which will host the World Cup final in Qatar in 2022. It was a glittering occasion, during which a magnificent 80,000-capacity venue was unveiled. In my mind though, I was transported back to Soccer City and our extra-time win against the Netherlands, when the winning goal was scored by my friend Andrés Iniesta and sent the nation into raptures. To this day, just thinking about that moment, sends a shiver down my spine.
To experience the World Cup is something very special – whether you are a player, fan or official. Football is unique in its ability to unite people towards a common goal. During the World Cup in Russia this summer, it didn’t matter where you came from or what language you spoke – everyone was united by their passion for the beautiful game. It was an incredible party that nobody who was there will ever forget.
Winning the World Cup is one thing; hosting the World Cup is something else entirely. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to promote everything that is positive about your country on a truly global scale. The World Cup offers a spotlight that few events – if any – can match.
I have spent the last four years living in Qatar, which is busy preparing for football’s next mega-event. The tournament here will be the first to be held in the Middle East and Arab world. And I can tell you from experience that the people of this region could not be prouder or more excited about hosting the biggest football event on the planet.
In addition to living in Qatar and playing for Al Sadd Sports Club, I am proud to be an ambassador for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy – the organisation responsible for delivering the infrastructure required for Qatar 2022 and overseeing numerous legacy projects. One of those projects – Generation Amazing – has become very close to my heart. It uses the power of football to empower and educate young people, and teach important life skills – and it has been my pleasure to watch it grow to the point where it has positively impacted more than 250,000 people across seven countries.
As well as improving the lives of people in Qatar, Generation Amazing is making a significant social and human impact in countries like India, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, Syria and Jordan. Some of the projects have included building football pitches in refugee camps and implementing sustainable programmes which ensure the facilities are utilised effectively.
I have attended pitch launch ceremonies, including one in Jordan in 2016, so I understand what these facilities mean to people and the impact they have on communities. It’s a joy to see the smiles on children’s faces when these projects are unveiled.
The quality of football in Qatar
And while the power of football is improving lives across the Middle East and Asia, the standard of the sport here is steadily improving. The quality of football in the Qatar Stars League is increasing every year, while Qatari sides perform consistently well in the AFC Champions League, including my own team, which made it all the way to the semi-finals this year. I have also been joined in Asia by a host of top stars, including Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o here in Qatar, Iniesta and David Villa in Japan, and Javier Mascherano in China. The game here is growing at a rapid rate.
Going back to the World Cup, and excitement here in Qatar is already building. Preparations are continuing at a fast pace – so expect to see plenty more photos and videos of futuristic stadiums in the coming years. I am very confident that once the matches kick off, on 21 November 2022, visitors will enjoy a unique, family-friendly experience. Many of them will be sampling a new culture for the first time and – thanks to Qatar’s compact nature – they will even have the chance to attend more than one match per day. This World Cup will have something unique and enjoyable for everyone.
Last summer, we saw people’s perceptions of Russia change from almost the minute they landed in the country. Fans discovered a welcoming, secure and peaceful country – something far removed from articles they may have read in the media beforehand. I fully expect something similar to happen here when fans step in to Lusail Stadium for the opening game. My message to fans across the world is simple: give Qatar 2022 a chance – because you might just love it!