Jari Litmanen learns more about Qatar 2022
Finland football legend Jari Litmanen believes Qatar's compact FIFA World Cup™ will provide a massive boost to players as it eliminates the need for tiring travel between games.
The former Barcelona and Liverpool midfielder recently visited the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy to learn more about preparations for Qatar 2022 – a tournament which he says will allow players to only focus on the game.
Litmanen, who is widely considered to be the greatest Finnish player of all time, said: "A compact World Cup is a huge advantage for the teams, as they will be able to stay in one spot. They can stay in one hotel, use the same training facility and be close to the stadium. They won't have to change their programme because of anything besides football. As a player, as a coach, you only need to focus on the game."
During Qatar 2022, nobody will have to travel for more than one hour to reach a stadium – and fans will even be provided with the unique opportunity to watch more than one game a day during the early stages of the tournament. The compact nature of the event also means fans will have plenty of time to enjoy all the attractions Qatar has to offer.
Litmanen, who became the first Finnish player to win the UEFA Champions League when he lifted the trophy with Ajax in 1995, said: "I visited Qatar for the first time five years ago and there is plenty to do apart from football. Qatar 2022 will not disappoint anybody."
Litmanen also learned about Qatar 2022 legacy plans during his visit, including details about the modular stadiums – which will see excess seats donated to build sporting facilities both in Qatar and overseas after the tournament is over. Litmanen, who won 137 caps for his country, also commented on the progress being made by Qatar's national team, which will enter 2022 as continental champions following their success in the AFC Asian Cup earlier this year.
"Qatar has been really good lately, not only in the last couple of years. You can see it's been a process. Now, as a host country, Qatar can do anything, I don't see any limits. There's no big difference anymore between the big teams like Germany or Brazil, and small teams like Qatar or Finland."
Later this year, Qatar will host the FIFA Club World Cup™ for the first time – something Litmanen sees as the ideal preparation for 2022.
"It's a good test for the organisation to see big clubs like Liverpool, to understand how the fans are behaving and how the traffic is going. Those are important steps ahead of 2022."
Litmanen also had the chance to visit 40,000-capacity Al Janoub Stadium and said Qatar has gone "a step higher" in terms of technology and services available in the venue, which will host matches up to the quarter-finals stage during 2022. He also met with SC Global Ambassador, and his former Barcelona teammate, Xavi Hernández, who has recently taken over as head coach of Qatar Stars League team Al Sadd.
"I know Xavi from our Barcelona time and I notice that the Qatari league is getting better and better because of international players and coaches like him. Xavi has been one of the greatest players of his time. He can do so much for young players," he concluded.