A member of the Netherlands’ UEFA EURO 2012 and 2014 FIFA World Cup™ squads, midfielder Nigel de Jong knows what it takes to host a memorable international tournament.
After recently switching the German Bundesliga for the QNB Stars League, where he plays for Al Ahli, De Jong is settled in Doha and feels confident Qatar will host a truly memorable FIFA World Cup™ in 2022.
The former Manchester City, Galatasaray and AC Milan midfielder spoke following a tour of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s Legacy Pavilion.
Thank you for coming in today, Nigel. What do you make of Qatar’s plans for the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Middle East?
The first impressions are amazing – especially from my point of view as a former international player. What Qatar is preparing for players and the considerations they have taken into account is fantastic. For the fans and people coming to Qatar for this event, it’s going to be an incredible experience for everyone.
How do you think the compact nature of Qatar 2022 will benefit players?
I think it has big advantages, for sure. As a player, especially when you’re playing games and taking part in training sessions, you don’t want to travel for long periods of time to go back to your base camp or alternate between three or more hotels, as seen in previous tournaments. In a country like Qatar, all the necessary facilities are very close by, so travelling won’t be a problem.
But the compact tournament is not only beneficial for players – it’s great for the fans also. They don’t have to move around as everything is within an area of about 50km. It’s going to be an amazing experience for both players and fans.
Having played in a FIFA World Cup™, how much of a positive impact can this global sporting event have on a host country?
I always say sport connects people, but I feel this is especially the case with football. Why? Because it’s the biggest sport in the world and it brings different nationalities and cultures together. This will be a major boost for Qatar – it will put the country on the map. People always have their thoughts about the Middle East and countries like Qatar, but hosting the World Cup will give people a better perspective of this country and region.
Finally, you moved to Qatar in July. Before you came, did you speak to Wesley Sneijder about the QNB Stars League and his experiences here? And how have you found it so far?
Yes, of course – he’s one of my best friends in football – so it was a chance for me to ask a lot of questions about the league and Qatar in general. He was very positive. Obviously every country and league have their advantages and disadvantages but at the end of the day you have to experience these things for yourself. I’m truly happy I took the decision to come here and I’m happy with my experience so far.
My family love it as well. I work with wonderful people at the club, and also outside it. I’ve met a lot of nice people already and I’ve only been here four months. Hopefully I’ll be here for many years to come.