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'Arab fans are crazy about football' - Michel Salgado feels 2022 World Cup in Qatar will herald a new era!

12:12 GMT+4 31/03/2022
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Salgado feels that Asian teams will be difficult to beat at Qatar 2022...

Former Real Madrid defender Michel Salgado is excited to witness the spectacle of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Not only is he looking forward to the best teams and players battling it out against each together, but he is also thrilled about the fact that the tournament is being held in the Middle-East for the first time ever.

The 46-year-old feels the passion fans in the Arab countries have for football is unparalleled and feels that the notion that football belongs to only European and Latin American countries is outdated.

In fact, he stressed that football is universal.

"I have lived in the Middle East for the last 10 years and I know what it means for the Arab people. Qatar has opened the path for everybody. It has been always held in countries where football is already developed like Europe, South America or the US and we think that football exists only in those regions. But people are wrong, football is universal," he told Goal during the unveiling of Adidas' new World Cup ball - Al Rihla - in Doha.

"Football is crazy everywhere and I can tell you that the Arab people around the world love football, they are crazy about football and they are the real fans of football. Maybe they cannot go to Santiago Bernabeu or the biggest stadiums in Europe but they always back their own teams," he added.

The former right-back is also glad that a major tournament like World Cup will be held in presence of fans, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

"For me, after the COVID, it was clear that football without the fans is nothing. COVID made us realise how important fans are to the game," he said.

"The first World Cup in the Arab world is going to open a new era for FIFA and everybody and I am going to enjoy a lot. It's going to be a special World Cup for us."

Salgado, who has part of Spain's 2006 World Cup squad, also feels the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will see Asian teams be a lot more competitive. In 2018, Japan had managed to reach the Round of 16 and almost defeated Belgium.

Salgado feels that this time, they will be harder to beat including the hosts Qatar who have been moulding a team for quite a few years now.

"Qatar have been together for a long time and I saw them in so many games. They are going to be a tough team to be. They will have the support of the fans, the country. They have been working for a long time, they won the Asian Cup. I think they are going to be a complicated team to beat for any team in the World Cup," he analysed.

"Then of course, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Japan, they have been doing really well in the qualifiers. The level of Asian football is getting better. You can see that results in all competitions are not like the past. I expect a really great competition and a lot of surprises in terms of results. To win it is a different story but during the group stage, I can see Asian teams getting good results against bigger nations."