Lothar Matthäus: Qatar will host a great celebration of football
Football fans of a certain age will remember the illustrious talents of Germany legend Lothar Matthäus.
In a career that exceeded two decades, the 61-year-old appeared in a record 25 FIFA World Cup™ matches and is one of only three players to have competed at five tournaments. As captain of West Germany, Matthäus led Die Mannschaft to their third World Cup title at Italy 1990.
Ahead of the next ticket sales period for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, on Tuesday 5 July, Matthäus spoke about his passion for football’s showpiece event and his anticipation for the first tournament in the Middle East and Arab world, which will kick off on 21 November.
When you think of the FIFA World Cup™, what comes to mind?
Emotion, passion, football and connection. It is the highlight of our sport. The best thing is to experience it – and I have experienced it as a player, fan and journalist. The first World Cup I remember is 1966 – and it still gives me goose bumps. When I look back, I remember great games, great characters and great results. A World Cup has everything you can imagine.
Describe the feeling of lifting the World Cup as West Germany captain at Italy 1990.
It is a moment I will never forget. It was not only the success, but also the togetherness and how we worked as a team. It was also how the fans supported us and the atmosphere we experienced in the stadiums and in the country. Everything was at a standstill and the only thing that mattered was football. It was also something very special to achieve in a football country like Italy because I was also playing for Inter Milan at the time. To be awarded the trophy as captain – it is something I will never forget.
Where does that moment stand in your career?
The World Cup is something special because the best teams and players compete for the title. It is a title that outshines all other successes because you have to work so hard for it. First to qualify, then to play well in a World Cup, then to win with your team and receive the trophy as captain. There is nothing greater you can achieve in football.
You appeared in five straight World Cup tournaments. How special was it for you to play in every event from 1982 to 1998?
Each World Cup was different. In my first World Cup in 1982, I was a young player and only played two games. By my second World Cup in 1986, I was already a regular player in the national team. Then in 1990, the highlight was winning the title. We were a well-prepared team, we weren't 23 friends, but we respected, accepted and supported each other. That was the high point. The 1994 and 1998 World Cups were not as successful because, as a team, we did not function as well as we did in 1990.
Qatar 2022 will be the most compact tournament in modern history, with all the venues within an hour’s drive of Doha. How will that benefit the players?
With less travel, the players can concentrate fully on football. This might help get that extra 1% or more from the players. It will be a different experience for many players, although these days, they are always so well prepared and looked after.
Qatar 2022 will be the first World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world. How important is it to take the World Cup to new regions?
It's very important. I was at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which was the first World Cup on the African continent. We also had a World Cup in Japan and South Korea in 2002. I think every continent has the right to host a World Cup at some point. I know there is a lot of enthusiasm for football in Qatar and people are looking forward to this World Cup. I am sure it will be a great football celebration in Qatar later this year.
Germany were one of the first teams to qualify for Qatar 2022 – how do you think they will perform at the tournament?
Germany is always among the favourites. However, in the last two major tournaments, we did not perform well. I hope we have learned from these bad results. I believe we have a team that is capable of doing well against big nations like Argentina, Brazil, England and France. We have huge potential, a good team spirit, and a good mix of experienced and young players. I think the team has also realised that it has to act as a unit again – which is something that always makes playing against Germany very difficult.
Qatar will be making their World Cup debut in November as tournament hosts. What are your thoughts of the Maroons and how far do you think they can progress in the competition?
Qatar are not among the favourites but you can see they have improved in recent years. If they have luck on their side, they could create a surprise. I don’t expect them to make it to the final but I think they can pick up points against other teams and – with a little bit of luck – make it through to the second round.
Which players do you think will be stand-out performers during this World Cup?
Every player benefits from the team's success, and that's why it's very important for the team to function – like it did for Germany in 1990. We saw that with Diego Maradona in 1986, perhaps myself in 1990 and Ronaldo from Brazil in 2002. You always have a connection to a special player for each World Cup. In 2018 in Russia, it was perhaps Kylian Mbappé, who became a world champion with France, or Luka Modrić, who reached the final with Croatia.
The upcoming first-come, first-served ticket sales phase will open at 12 noon Doha time on 5 July and close on 16 August. Visit FIFA.com/tickets for further details. Click here for the latest tickets, accommodation and Hayya information.