Eric Abidal has been involved in some of the most iconic moments of world football in recent years. After battling back from cancer, in 2011 he lifted the Champions League trophy for F.C. Barcelona, while in 2006, he narrowly missed out on the FIFA World Cup™ title with France after losing to Italy in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the final.
He racked up an impressive 21 trophies during his career, but that triumph at Wembley stadium – clinching the Champions League for a second time – ranks amongst the most pivotal for him. “The defining moments of my career have been the first contract that I signed as a youngster, for F.C. Barcelona, but above all the victory in the Champions League in 2011 after a very complicated battle against a difficult disease. I remember the team spirit that we had, the courage and the determination to win trophies – Visca Barca.”
When asked who had suggested he lift the trophy at Wembley in 2011, the Frenchman revealed: “Puyol and Pep Guardiola suggested it to me together with the captains at the time – Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Victor Valdes. It was an incredible moment to be the first to lift the trophy.
“It wasn’t only the victory of Barcelona but also of all the people who helped me, above all my wife, family and all the fans of Barcelona, and all the people who love football.”
Now retired, the former full-back is looking towards the future, and he believes it will be the Arab world’s time to make its own mark on football history in Qatar in 2022. “You can really see that the people in the Arab world love football, they are filled with football passion,” he told *www.sc.qa *during a visit to look at the progress being made towards the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™.
Messi is a phenomenon, more than a phenomenon.
“As a player it will be fantastic to not have to travel between matches, as both of the World Cup tournaments I played in – especially South Africa in 2010 – included vast distances and plane trips between matches.”
He continued: “ I believe that the Arab region really deserves to host this tournament for the first time – and as a Muslim I am pleased to see the tournament come here. It will offer supporters from all parts of the world a chance to get to know this region, travel to other countries nearby, and create better understanding between cultures.”
Back in the present, with Barcelona set for a tough return match against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 this week, the versatile former defender said he is confident that they can repeat their victory in the home match.
“It will be a difficult game again for sure, and we will have to give it our all as we did at Camp Nou. As Barcelona, you can’t lose two games in a row, especially against Madrid sides, so that was an important win last week. Now we will have to be fully focused on winning the game in Madrid. We can do it again in the Champions League if you look at our players. Messi is a phenomenon, more than a phenomenon.”
When asked about the main striker he preferred to lead France’s attack at Euro 2016 this summer, Abidal said: “I don’t have any preference between [Karim] Benzema and [Olivier] Giroud to lead the line, they are both good for the French team, each one with his strengths. It is a difficult moment for Benzema with the French national team, and Giroud is not playing much with Arsenal. Benzema will have to wait for the final decision from the coach, but without a doubt in my starting eleven I would put Benzema as a starter and Giroud as substitute.”
And the former Lyon and Monaco defender concluded by saying that a former coach of his was giving football underdogs from around the world hope that they too could spring a surprise. “Leicester City is playing a fantastic season, and they have a great coach in Claudio Ranieri. He is my former manager and I wish him and the team well as they attempt to win the title. The work of Ranieri and his team shows that even though they don’t have a big name, a small club can go all the way.”