Football legend and former Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Touré endorsing the FIFA World Cup 2022 said that hosting of the event in Qatar will be ground-breaking and historic, as it will be the first tournament to be staged in the Middle East and Arab world.
With Qatar 2022 fast approaching, FIFA’s World Cup Ambassador and four-time African Footballer of the Year, Yaya Touré’s affirmation of the event will add further cachet to the tournament, as Touré, a widely respected star is also someone who appreciates the importance of the World Cup’s journey to new frontiers.
Below are excerpts from a preview by Touré of this year’s tournament, which is all set for the kick-off on 20 November at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Doha.
Having experienced the FIFA World Cup in Europe, Africa and South America, Touré was sure that this year’s tournament in Qatar will be special for the Middle East and Arab world. “It will be really important and special because it’s going to be the first time that an Arab and Islamic country will host this important competition.
Asked how the timing of the tournament — from 20 November to 18 December — will benefit the players, Touré explained: “The timing means the top European leagues and clubs will be taking a break from their seasons. It’s going to be unusual in the sense that players are going to be fit and not fatigued from playing a long season with their clubs. In that way, I think it’s going to be historic. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.
“Also, the compact nature of Qatar 2022 means fans will always be near a stadium, and I look forward to attending more than one match a day during the early stages of the tournament. This is something that has amazed me the most about this World Cup. I’ve been impressed with the way Qatar has prepared and how ready they are to host fans from around the world. Having had conversations with the organizers, the ease with which people will be able to get around is another reason why I think this World Cup will be special.
“In addition, with more time available to prepare for matches, due to short distances between their hotel, training base and stadiums, it will provide an amazing boost to the performance of players. When I played at the World Cup in Brazil, there were two or three-hour flights between matches; but it won’t be like that in Qatar. For me, it’s going to be one of the best World Cups because you’ll see all the stars playing in one place.”
Turning to the impact of World Cup 2010 that was held in South Africa, and its impact on the entire continent, Touré expects a similar outcome for the Middle East and Arab world from the games being held in Qatar.
“I think 2010 was a huge opportunity for the African continent, as there was so much excitement. It brought the African people together. At the time, it made us believe that an African team could win the World Cup. Hopefully, one day, an African team will win it.
“I’m sure fans in Qatar and across the region will feel the same way. They will appreciate the opportunities that hosting the World Cup brings and start to believe that an Arab team can be the world’s best.”
Asked about his prediction on which of the five African teams that have qualified for the Qatar 2022 tournament will perform the best, Touré replied: “Senegal are a good team and could do well in this World Cup. They will be full of confidence after winning the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year.
I also think Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco and Tunisia will perform well. The qualifying play-offs showed how many great teams we have in Africa. We hope now that African teams can reach new heights at this World Cup.
Touré concluded his preview of the upcoming tournament by pointing out the importance of football to the world. “Football takes us away from the stress of daily life, brings people together and reflects the diversity of so many cultures. So many people know that football is amazing and enjoyable to both play and experience.
“If you look at my country, Ivory Coast, we were close to having a civil war when we qualified for our first World Cup in 2006. After that, our team asked the government to bring an end to the conflict. This shows how powerful football can be in our society. Like sport in general, it gives hope by allowing people to have positive things to focus on and enjoy.”