“Europeans are the best” in football and therefore the Qatar team stand to gain a lot by playing as a guest team in the European qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said yesterday. Ceferin, who is in Doha to attend the opening of Qatar’s brand new stadium at Al Rayyan where the Amir Cup final will be played today, was speaking to local media at a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Qatar, who have already qualified for their home World Cup by virtue of being the hosts, have been included in Group A of the European qualifiers along with Portugal, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg and Ireland.
Matches played by Qatar will be treated as friendlies and their results won’t be taken into account while deciding the qualifying spots from the group when action gets underway in March next year. Ceferin said UEFA invited Qatar to take part in the European qualifying process because “we wanted to send out a message to the world that football is one.”
“It’s a very good idea” Ceferin, from Slovenia, said. “We (UEFA) discussed about it quite for a while and I must say all our member federations were positive about it. No one ever said anything against it. Our Executive Committee gave 100% support for it”
Ceferin is certain that the experience gained by Qatar by playing against European teams will help them considerably when they play in the FIFA World Cup in their home country.
“European football is a global product. Seventy percent of the audience watching the European Champions League final is from outside Europe. I am sure it will be a great experience for your team. And with due respect, Europeans are the best!”
He said the decision to involve Qatar in the European competition “is a great message to show that sport is friendship, sport is positive energy and that it’s not war or something negative.”
The Slovenian was all praise for Qatar, saying he was very impressed with the country’s preparations for the World Cup. “First of all I’ve seen and heard a lot about Qatar’s preparations (in the past), but when you come over here you are even more impressed.
“The infrastructure is brilliant and with the exception of a few stadiums that are not complete you are ready to host the World Cup tomorrow! We are very impressed”
Ceferin was of the view that footballers should learn to live with the hectic schedule they face because that’s not going to change anytime soon. “It hectic, the calendar is very full, but if you play less, you will earn less.” After all, “nobody complains about the salaries.
“You just complain you play too much. I know it’s tough,” but the way the situation is now, “we cannot play more, but we cannot play less.”
Speaking about the racism experienced by several players, particularly in Europe, Ceferin said the UEFA are trying their utmost to root out the problem. “Look, football is a reflection of the society, football fans are a reflection of society. I am sure I know 99.9 percent of the fans are not racists, but there’s a small number of people that use football matches to show their idiotic ideology.
“We will fight them, we are fighting them but we need help from the governments. We need education of small children about what is racism. Discrimination is not just about racism, it’s discrimination against different religions, discrimination against different cultures.
“We have to educate people but governments have to help us. We are fighting against all forms of discrimination and trying to get rid of those people (who discriminate). It’s a fight that will last for years but I am sure we will win.”
The UEFA chief said he can’t wait to see the opening of the Al Rayyan venue today.
“I’ve had a very busy schedule in Qatar. I’ve not been able to see the stadium but there’s nothing like watching a match live at a new stadium.”
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