Qatar 2022 a blessing for fans and players, says Souness
Doha: Scottish football legend Graeme Souness is no stranger to Qatar. The combative midfielder, who played in three editions of the FIFA World Cup, is a regular visitor to the country through his work as a pundit.
The Liverpool icon, who won three European Cups, recently visited the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s Legacy Pavilion, where he spoke exclusively to www.sc.qa.
What are your thoughts on the FIFA World Cup™ heading to Qatar in 2022?
For football, Qatar 2022 is great news. It’s only the second World Cup to be hosted in Asia, which doesn’t sound right when you consider the enormous interest in football across the region. The big clubs in England have been reaching out to Asia for a number of years, so it’s fitting the tournament is returning to this part of the world.
Personally, I’m looking forward to Qatar. Many people were concerned about this year’s tournament in Russia, but it has turned out to be an outstanding success. I’m sure it will be a similar story in Qatar.
Qatar is going to host a compact tournament. How important will this be in terms of overall event experience?
The world will see something totally unprecedented in Qatar. It’s amazing that the two farthest stadiums are within an hour of each other. Fans can stay in the same hotel throughout and really enjoy the football – potentially watching two matches a day. It’s fantastic.
You played in three FIFA World Cup tournaments. How important is it for players to cut down travelling?
Being on the road is not just about time and energy being lost. Moving from hotel to hotel – different beds, different pillows – I know how difficult the process can be for professional players who are trained to focus on their next match.
Travelling between games is not easy, whether the tournament is held in a big country, in my case Argentina in 1978, or relatively smaller ones, such as Spain in 1982 and Mexico in 1986.
Today’s players may be super-fit athletes but spending a few hours in a pressurised cabin at regular intervals is bound to effect people. The World Cup is such a demanding affair – we saw Croatia had three back-to-back extra-time periods in Russia – and factors such as being based in one place and playing mid-season will make a positive difference.
What do you make of the Asian teams who performed well at Russia 2018?
Islamic Republic of Iran, Korea Republic and Japan, in particular, proved they have bridged the gap somewhat with Europe and South America. I think all those teams have become more tactically aware.
Asian coaches are getting access to top clubs in Europe, while many players compete at the highest level. As a result, a number of Asian teams are highly organised and feature players with a great attitude. I’m sure they will keep improving and bridge the gap further by 2022.
Who is your favourite Asian player?
Son Heung-min is extremely gifted – he has been very consistent for Spurs. The Koreans who have played in England have impressed me – Son and Ki Sung-yueng, along with Park Ji-sung who did so well for Manchester United. They are very enthusiastic, always wanting to learn. They also have a never-say-die attitude and are extremely disciplined.
Sources: sc.qa, FIFA via Getty Images