An ambassador for Qatar’s bid to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup™, former France midfielder Zinedine Zidane was all smiles on a dramatic Thursday afternoon in Zurich.
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, the usually reserved Zizou voiced his delight at the Qataris’ successful candidature and outlined what it means to him on a personal level and to the Arab world as a whole.
FIFA.com: Zinedine, how do you feel about the announcement?
Zinedine Zidane: Relieved more than anything because it’s never easy to support a bid. It’s like a competition. What makes me happy is the fact that the message I was trying to convey throughout the campaign seems to have got through. I was saying that football belonged to the whole world, and now Russia and Qatar, who’ve never organised the World Cup, will finally be hosting this amazing event. There’s a certain logic in that decision and it’s fantastic news for both countries.
You seem very happy. Why is that exactly?
I’m proud to have been part of this bid, which I’ve supported all the way through. I’m proud to have made my contribution to a new country getting the World Cup. Qatar and the entire Middle East as a whole deserves this event and that makes me happy.
You mention the Middle East. Do you see this as something that resonates beyond Qatar?
Yes, it’s a victory for the Arab world. Qatar has received support from the Arab world as a whole and I think that’s been an important factor. Now they’ve got a little bit of time to get down to work and do what they have to do, which is to harness sport and football to achieve some big things. They’ve got ten years to put a team together and stage a wonderful World Cup.
What do you think tilted the balance in Qatar’s favour?
I think it was the fact they’d be new hosts that made the difference. When he made the announcement President Blatter seemed delighted that FIFA and its Executive Committee were happy to entrust the tournament to a country that had never hosted it before. That’s what stood out for me. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a logical choice. But obviously, when it comes it down to the voting, it’s the little details that make the difference.
You went through a similar experience when France was awarded the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Can you remember how you felt then?
It came as a bit of a shock to me. It must have been before 1994 and I was just making my way into the France team. I clearly remember saying to myself that if France got the tournament, I’d be in with a chance of playing in it, of being part of it. It was great for France, but for me personally it was even more amazing to think that I could take part in it as a member of the national team.
So what was it actually like to take part?
Well, you know, you can’t ask for anything more than to play in the World Cup at home and to beat Brazil 3-0 to win it. There’s no doubt about that! (laughs)
This is only the start for Qatar. Will you have a role to play in the years to come?
I don’t have any exact role right now. My job was to support the bid, and I’ve done that. I’m happy with my contribution and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the future. What’s important right now is to savour the moment and I’m delighted to have played my part in a winning team.