Italy’s FIFA World Cup™-winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is regarded as one of the greatest shot-stoppers the game has ever seen, having played an instrumental role as his team lifted the trophy in Germany in 2006. The iconic keeper has become one of the symbols of Italy’s golden generation, participating in five editions and featuring as the first choice between the posts at the last four World Cups, as well as making the FIFA 100 list of greatest living players compiled by Pele in 2004.
The veteran Juventus and Italy captain arrived in the Qatari capital for the final of the 2014 Italian Super Cup to an overwhelming display of affection from fans in the Middle East, who have travelled to Doha from Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and many other countries in the region to catch a glimpse of their idols.
After landing at Hamad International Airport in Doha, a photo on the official Juventus instagram page showed Buffon wearing a Qatar scarf as he posed for a photo with a fan. Ahead of the final against Napoli at Al Sadd Stadium on Monday, the keeper then showed his appreciation for the overwhelming passion for football he has witnessed in the country.
Asked by www.sc.qa if he was already a fan of Qatar after spending three days in the host country of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™, Buffon replied: “Yes, of course. We have all been received here with great enthusiasm, since some people haven’t had the chance to see a club like Juventus from close quarters. That is why for us to be received in this way has made us feel very special. Clearly we have been more followed than usual. This wouldn’t be the case unless you live the passion for football and understand the message which football can send.”
Among a host of individual awards collected over the past two decades, Buffon has been chosen as the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics) goalkeeper of the year four times. He added that although he probably would not make it as a player, the World Cup in Qatar had all the potential to succeed.
“With the World Cup, there are still eight years left, but I think that they have the potential, the economic power, the infrastructure to succeed and to give a fantastic portrait of the country," he said. "I think the infrastructure and stadiums have a very high quality. If we play this World Cup in the right weather, then the players can display their best skills. My first feeling here is that the people have great potential for hosting a very important event."
Adding his voice to that of his Juventus team-mate in Doha was another talented player with plenty of World Cup experience. Argentinian striker, Carlos Tevez, who has played at two FIFA World Cup™ finals in Germany and South Africa, as well as winning an Olympic gold medal for his country, was visibly impressed on his first visit to the host country of the 2022 finals.
“Qatar getting to host the World Cup is a wonderful thing. It is a beautiful country and deserves that the world find out more about it and seeing it in a different way altogether,” the in-form forward told www.sc.qa. “This is an amazing country especially when it comes to the buildings and facilities."
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said he was confident Qatar would put on a fantastic tournament – whether in summer or winter: “The conditions are right for success, but they have to decide whether the World Cup will be held in winter or summer. I am sure Qatar will do its best. And I am sure that it will be an excellent tournament."