Xavi Hernandez and Laurent Blanc are two absolute legends of the game in their own right. While Xavi was a star in the Barcelona midfield for a long time, Blanc was a superstar defender who played for the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Manchester United during his career.
Both of them have tasted success for their national teams in the biggest competition in football too – the World Cup. While Xavi helped Spain win the 2010 crown, Blanc was a part of the France team which won the 1998 edition.
Both of them are currently managing clubs in Qatar, the hosts for the 2022 World Cup, and are understandably excited ahead of the launch of a new stadium for the quadrennial extravaganza.
The Al Thumama stadium is set to be inaugurated on Friday with the Amir Cup final where Blanc and Xavi will go head-to-head. Xavi is the manager of Al Sadd who will take on Al Rayyan, managed by Blanc, in the final of Qatar’s most prestigious domestic cup competition.
And the two legends, before going up against each other on the field, met each other at the Al Thumama stadium and shared their thoughts on the World Cup next year. Xavi, a Qatar Legacy Ambassador, was visibly impressed by the Al Thumama stadium which resembles the ‘gahfiya’ head cap worn by men and boys across the Arab world.
“This stadium is wonderful,” said Xavi. “For the fans, the players, for me as a coach, this is spectacular. I’m proud to be part of the opening of this stadium. We previously did this for Khalifa International, Al Janoub, Ahmad Bin Ali and now Al Thumama. This stadium also reflects something very traditional for Qataris in the gahfiya head ware.”
Xavi continued: “I feel proud and honoured to be part of the opening of this stadium and I’m so happy to be part of another Amir Cup Final. It’s an honour for me and for fans of Al Sadd.”
Blanc, on the other hand, is aiming to win his first silverware with Al Rayyan.
“It is a very beautiful stadium, like all the ones that have been built for the World Cup. Sincerely, they are exceptionally beautiful,” said the former centre back. “When you see these stadiums, you want to play again. Unfortunately, my playing days are over.”
Blanc also reminisced about his World Cup win in 1998 where France were hosts and stated that Qatar is about to witness a magical tournament next year.
“To win a World Cup in your own country is really a fantastic experience,” Blanc said. “You still think about it ten, 20, even 30 years later. Even if you don’t think about it, people make you think about it.”
Blanc continued: “Qatar is about to experience the World Cup and I hope there are lots of people that come to see it.”
Xavi, meanwhile, shared how the region is coming together to celebrate the World Cup and expects the enthusiasm and excitement to grow even further.
“We are so close to the start of the World Cup and you can breathe the football atmosphere,” Xavi said. “You can see more football people are here and the Amir Cup Final will be full of fans. I can see people’s excitement for the World Cup is growing.”
The Al Thumama stadium has a capacity of 40000 and will be a venue for the 2021 Arab Cup as well.