Samuel Eto’o knows a thing or two about the FIFA World Cup.
The decorated forward represented Cameroon at four tournaments (2014, 2010, 2002, 1998) during his lengthy international career and is one of just three African players all-time to compete on soccer’s grandest stage four times.
Despite retiring from international competition in August 2014, Eto’o is looking forward to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the first to be held in the Middle East.
“It’s going to be the best World Cup in the world,” Eto’o said. “There’s going to be stadiums like no one has ever seen before. We’re going to discover a country that’s going to show soccer in a way we’ve never seen before.”
The 2022 World Cup has been mired by controversy and scrutiny since the rich gulf nation was awarded the hosting rights in 2010. Everything from bribery scandals around the bid itself to moving the tournament from the summer to the winter, alcohol accessibility and working conditions have been under a microscope as the tournament inches closer and closer.
“When Russia won the bid everybody was thinking ‘Why Russia? Are they going to be able to pull it off and maintain the same standards?’” Eto’o said. “The last World Cup (2018) was one of the best ever created, if not the best. Now people are talking the same way about Qatar.
“I think it’s going to be one of the best World Cups ever.”
Eto’o joined Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), the organization responsible for hosting the event, in April as a global ambassador, working on a variety of initiatives including workers’ welfare projects, legacy programs and event experience leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
He joins former FC Barcelona teammate Xavi Hernandez, legendary Brazilian defender Cafu and former tennis player Mohammed Saadon Al Kuwari as official SC ambassadors.
“Football goes much farther than politics and it’s important that football travels the world because it’s everywhere—it’s an incredible social force,” Eto’o said.
Eto’o would know. The 38-year-old has played in Spain, Italy, England, Turkey, Russia and Qatar for clubs including FC Barcelona, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Antalyaspor throughout his illustrious career. The four-time African Player of the Year won the UEFA Champions League three times, LaLiga three seasons and Serie A once.
He most recently played for Qatar SC in the nation’s capital, Doha. The ageless striker scored six goals in 17 appearances, and in February expressed an interest in continuing his playing career in Qatar, which has grown on him in a short amount of time.
“I love the tranquility; it’s very calm, quiet and safe,” he said.