5/17/2018 6:24:22 PM

Ruud Gullit: 2022 World Cup an ‘amazing opportunity’ for players and fans

Ruud Gullit: 2022 World Cup an ‘amazing opportunity’ for players and fans

Doha: Dutch legend Ruud Gullit is amazed at the rapid infrastructure progress being made in Qatar and has praised the country’s compact tournament plans for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The former AC Milan star, who was in Doha working as a pundit for beIN SPORTS, recently met executives from the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the organisation responsible for delivering the infrastructure required for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

And after taking a tour of the SC’s Legacy Pavilion at Al Bidda Tower, the former Netherlands captain said he was amazed at the work being done to deliver the Arab world’s first FIFA World Cup.

 “Every time I visit Qatar I find something new,” said Gullit, who led the Netherlands to success at the 1988 UEFA European Championship.

“Even though I visit Doha on a regular basis, I see obvious progress every time. Look at the airport, hotels and Lusail City. It’s really amazing.”

Gullit, who represented the Netherlands at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, also praised Qatar’s compact tournament plans. The maximum distance between stadiums will be just 55km in 2022, while fans will have the chance to attend more than one match per day during the early stages of the tournament.

“It will be a lot easier for the players as they will hardly have to travel at all,” said Gullit, who is now assistant manager of the Netherlands national team. “Also, the tournament being held in November and December means players will be at their physical best. I think a lot of stars will emerge.”

1987 Ballon d’Or winner Gullit continued: “The fans will also benefit from not having the hassle of moving a lot. From the hotel, to the metro, to the stadium, in half an hour. They will then be able to catch the metro at the end of the game to watch another match. This is a major strength and different to previous tournaments.”

Through regular visits to Qatar, Gullit understands the passion for football in the country and region.

“People love the game in this part of the world. I have met a lot of Arabs and I always feel their passion and love for football.”

Looking ahead to this summer’s tournament in Russia, Gullit is disappointed his home nation won’t be represented after failing to qualify for the finals for the first time since 2002. In their absence, Gullit is backing four nations to be among the contenders for the trophy.

“France and Germany both have a great chance, while Brazil will be seeking revenge after the embarrassment of 2014 when they lost heavily to Germany in the semi-finals. Spain also has the quality and ability to go far in the tournament.”

Gullit also advised Egyptian fans not to heap too much pressure on Mohamed Salah after his sterling debut campaign at Liverpool.

“He has to enjoy what he has achieved this season. He has been the best player in England but I want to watch him perform at the same level over the coming years,” said Gullit.

“Messi and Ronaldo have been doing this for quite a few years so Salah has to know that reaching the top is difficult but staying there is even harder. Things will be tougher for him at the World Cup and his country shouldn’t expect too much as it will become a burden on him.”

Gullit also mentioned next weekend’s UEFA Champions League final, which will be contested by Real Madrid and Liverpool. “Real Madrid have capitalised during the critical moments in recent matches,” said Gullit, who lifted the European Cup twice with AC Milan in 1989 and 1990.

“We saw what Real Madrid are made of in the quarter-final against Juventus and the semi-final against Bayern Munich. They have the tools to hurt teams but they also had a bit of luck. I always say the best coaches need a bit of luck – and Zinedine Zidane has been very successful and also lucky at times.”

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