The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is less than 18 months away, and with every milestone reached, excitement continues to build in the country and across the region.
Former Brazil captain Cafu, who won the World Cup on two occasions during a storied career that included trophy-laden spells with Sao Paulo, Milan and Roma, is excited at Qatar hosting the football showpiece event. The former defender, who is a Global Ambassador for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, visited Qatar earlier this year and was in awe of Qatar’s new state-of-the-art stadiums. Excerpts
You visited Qatar earlier this year for the FIFA Club World Cup. Can you tell us a bit about what your experience? Were you impressed by the progress in Qatar?
I had the opportunity to visit Qatar earlier this year for the FIFA Club World Cup. My experience of the country during this tournament was wonderful as I had the opportunity to watch great games and see great teams in the stands as a fan. Watching football in Qatar’s new state-of-the-art stadiums is the stuff of dreams for someone that loves football. Everything has been considered to make the fan experience as positive as possible.
Qatar had changed a lot since my last visit before the pandemic. Every year the country progresses at such a fast rate that it is like visiting a new city or country. The infrastructure is now 95% complete so they are almost ready for next year’s World Cup that I believe will be one of the greatest in history. I think it is going to be incredible and people will want to be there to experience it.
I am very impressed by the way Qatar has dedicated themselves to ensuring this is an amazing tournament. I know they are excited to welcome fans from all over the world in 2022 and that everyone will be welcome for what I think will be a global celebration of our beautiful game.
Qatar 2022 will be the most compact World Cup ever. What impact will this have on players and fans?
At Qatar 2022 you will have an entire World Cup compacted into a small area. You will have all the venues, fan zones and facilities in one place with just a short distance to travel between any two venues. For example, the longest distance between stadiums is just 75km so fans will be able to watch two or maybe even three live games in a single day.
This is fantastic as fans will get to watch more football than ever before at the World Cup.
You can have a fixed base for 45 days and you won’t have to change locations. This is wonderful for the fans, but it is also great for the players. With less travel the players won’t be as tired as they can get more rest between games which should hopefully result in better performances on the pitch and less injuries.
During my trip to Qatar earlier this year I had the opportunity to travel across Doha on a motorbike with a local motorcycle group. I love riding my motorbike in Brazil, so this was an incredible experience for me. We travelled the longest distance possible between two World Cup stadiums – from Al Janoub to Al Bayt – taking in all the beautiful sights along the way. The journey took us just over one hour in total which really highlighted to me just how compact this World Cup will be. All the fans and everyone in Qatar for the World Cup will be part of the action from start to finish and it should help create a special atmosphere.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite memories from Copa América? Are there any moments that stand out?
During my career I had the privilege of playing for Brazil at the Copa America four times winning it in both ’97 and ’99. The Copa América experience is always amazing for a player as playing for your country at this tournament is a special moment in any career. It is always an extremely competitive competition with the best players in the world. A lot of people don’t view the Copa América as being as important as winning the World Cup, but when it starts, nobody wants to lose.
Obviously winning the competition on two occasions with Brazil is my favourite memory of Copa but If I had to pick one standout moment from a game it would probably be Ronaldinho’s goal against Venezuela on his debut for Brazil. I passed the pass to him at the edge of the box and flicked the ball past two defenders with some great skill to score a beautiful goal. It was just the first of many beautiful goals that he would score for Brazil and something he did regularly throughout his brilliant career.
How do you rate the current crop of Brazilian players? Do you think Brazil can challenge for the Copa America title this year?
Looking at the current crop of Brazilian players I think it is a good squad with impressive individual and technical quality. Without a shadow of a doubt this team can fight to win this year’s Copa América. I think they are the team that everyone has to beat at this year’s tournament.
Everybody always wants to beat the Brazilian team, but I think that if these boys combine their talents and put in strong team performances, then surely Brazil will have a great result at Copa América. Winning the tournament would be the perfect way to prepare and build confidence ahead of next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.