Xavi: "Expect a fascinating World Cup in Qatar"
"Since I moved to Qatar in 2015, I have seen a lot of progress at all levels, stadiums, infrastructure, roads and railways. When you walk around Doha you see the passion for football," says Xavi.
Xavi Hernández has written an open letter about his career and life in Qatar, where he currently coaches Al Sadd. He talks of life in the Qatari capital after a long career with the Spanish national team and FC Barcelona.
"Since I moved to Qatar in 2015, I have seen a lot of progress at all levels, starting from stadiums, infrastructure, and roads and railways, so I have faith that a magnificent tournament awaits players and spectators. It was not an easy decision for me or my family to leave Barcelona and start a new journey in another part of the world, in a place totally different for me."
Passion as strong as ever
"At the time, my passion for playing the game was as strong as ever, but deep down, I knew I would no longer be able to contribute as much as I would have liked on the pitch at a club like Barcelona, where every game is a must-win. When I learned about the World Cup project in Qatar by speaking to friends such as Raúl, who had already played here, I was truly impressed by what the country wanted to achieve both on and off the pitch by hosting the tournament.
"It was a great opportunity for me to continue playing football while also playing a role in a bigger, national project, with the aim of achieving great things off the pitch through the programmes put in place to deliver positive social change beyond Qatar 2022.
"When you walk around Doha and meet the locals, their passion for football is clear to see. I didn’t really know what to expect when I first moved here as it was a completely new experience for me, leaving Barça after 25 years, to go to a new part of the world with a different culture and traditions. I must admit that I like practically everything about living in Qatar. The weather is amazing, with sunshine almost every day, and it is a very relaxing place to work as the people are really respectful and very friendly. It’s also a very safe country with very little crime, and is therefore a great place to raise a young family."
"Since moving to Qatar, I have also had the opportunity to work on some incredible charitable initiatives. One of the projects – Generation Amazing – has become very close to my heart. It uses the power of football to empower and educate young people and teach important life skills. The programme recently celebrated its tenth anniversary and it has been a pleasure to watch it grow to the point where it has now positively impacted more than 500,000 people across ten countries. Some of the projects have included building football pitches in refugee camps and implementing sustainable programmes that ensure the facilities are used effectively. I have attended pitch launch ceremonies in Jordan and India – and the impact they have on communities is huge.
"While I had initially only planned on staying in Qatar to finish my playing career, when I was presented with the opportunity to take over as the manager of Al Sadd I was delighted. My family and I had really grown to love it here in Qatar and the way of life, so it was a brilliant chance for me to take my first step into my managerial career and oversee a squad with a number of promising players likely to feature for the Qatar national team in 2022. Having played for Al Sadd, I knew it would be a fantastic place for me to transition to life on the touchline and help develop some of our players here."
Adapting to life as coach of Al Sadd
"It took some time to adapt to my new life as coach, but I'm enjoying it a lot. My philosophy is the same as when I was a player. I like football to be played in a positive way. As a player, I liked having the ball, keeping possession, going on the attack and creating as many chances as possible. I believe in a possession-based game, played at a high tempo, and I like my players to understand the importance of playing as a team. Everyone has to defend together and attack together. Above all, players must enjoy playing football and the best way to enjoy football is to have the ball, create lots of chances and score lots of goals. This is how I lived it as a player, and it is how I want my players to experience the game under my guidance.
"From my time here, it is clear that football is developing very well in Qatar. The World Cup project meant that they had to really focus on developing not only top-class facilities and stadiums to host the tournament, but a national team capable of competing on the biggest stage with the world’s best teams. Aspire Academy, which launched back in 2004 to help develop footballers and other athletes in the country, has been a huge success. The new generation of players coming through in Qatar are improving a lot. I can see this improvement with my own players at Al Sadd and it is a privilege to work with them every day and help them grow in confidence."
World Cup will raise the game in Qatar
"With the current pace of development, and having recently won the AFC Asian Cup, I think Qatar can compete very well in its first World Cup in 2022. Football culture is growing at a tremendous speed here and I think that the World Cup will help take them to the next level, not just in Qatar but throughout the Arab region. While eventually, it will be time to take the next step in my career, for now, I am focused on enjoying my time here and making the most of the opportunity to play a small role in Qatar's exciting journey leading up to 2022."
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