Jordan Daily – beIN SPORTS, the official FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ broadcaster in 25 countries across Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and France, broadcast an exclusive interview with FIFA President Gianni Infantino on 18 December to mark the one-year anniversary of the World Cup final.
Infantino reminisced about “the best World Cup ever” and its lasting legacy within the Arab World, and was full of praise for the host country, which he said provided the world with a unique World Cup. He talked about a final that not even a Hollywood director could script, and why his unprecedented plan to attend all 64 games had him “scared” pre-tournament.
“The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ was, simply, the best World Cup ever,” he said during the interview. “Happiness, joy, pride, fulfilment; everything that one can dream of when he thinks about the maximum that football can offer to the world has happened in Qatar in 2022. We had incredible matches, we had excitement, we had passion, we had heartbeat, we had joy, we had tears, we had emotion; we had everything.”
Infantino added that the tournament attracted five billion viewers from home and close to three and a half million spectators in the stadiums, with one and a half million coming to the region from overseas – including, importantly, many for the first time.
“It was important that the World Cup goes for the first time somewhere else… to Qatar, to the Arab World,” he said. “Having a World Cup in Qatar for the first time allowed two major things to happen. The first is that the World Cup was definitely a catalyst for positive change in the country; not just as far as the infrastructure but, for example, workers’ rights. It’s not me saying it, it’s the International Labour Organisation saying that. Hundreds of thousands of workers today have much better conditions than before this World Cup happened, thanks to the changes that happened.
“And the second element that this World Cup contributed to was that it opened the door to the world to visit and to witness – and to enjoy, as well – a new culture, the Arab culture. A welcoming way of a country, of a whole region – the whole GCC region – who welcomed fans from all over the world. For many, it was the first time going and witnessing and experiencing the Arab World and they found that, actually, these people are welcoming. You can enjoy, you have a great atmosphere, good food; everything that every fan wants was absolutely there.”
The compact nature of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – all 64 games were played with a radius of 54 kilometres of Doha – meant fans could attend multiple games in one day. Infantino, noting this possibility pre-tournament set himself the challenge of realising a dream and attending every single match during the month-long competition.
“It’s actually more than a dream, something you could not even dream that came true,” he added. “Before, when I decided that I would like to attend all 64 games, I was a bit scared because I said: ‘Well, maybe I will fall asleep during some of the games because it will be a lot,’ but actually not because every game was very, very entertaining. But I think the climax was really the final.”
The final, played inside the Lusail Stadium on 18 December 2022, saw Argentina crowned champions for a third time after one of the most unforgettable games in World Cup history. The South Americans, led by Lionel Messi, overcame reigning champions France on penalties after extra-time finished with the match tied 3-3.
“An incredible game, an incredible result, extra time, penalties, last-second chances on one side, and then of course on the other side Messi scoring three goals, [Kylian] Mbappé scoring four goals including the penalties, of course. And just incredible, incredible emotions. This is what only football can write, right? I think if you would have asked the best filmmaker in the world before the World Cup to write us the most thrilling and exciting final it wouldn’t have turned out like that. It was really unique.”
Appearing at his fifth World Cup, Messi became the player with the highest number of appearances, passing the previous record set by Germany’s Lothar Matthäus. As captain of Argentina, the then-35-year-old Messi received the trophy wearing a traditional Qatari bisht, creating images that went around the world.
“It was really unique,” added Infantino. “This shows a lot how a great player like Leo Messi fights, with his nation, with his team, and becomes finally world champion. So an incredible emotion to hand over the trophy to him. But France also put in a great game. Great team, incredible final.”