Xavi: 48-team World Cup ‘too long’

Spanish football legend Xavi Hernandez feels a 32-team tournament is better for the spectators and even for the players.

Xavi Hernandez at the construction of a new community pitch in a corporation school in Mumbai on Monday.   -  AFP

He's won the FIFA World Cup, the Euro Championships, a silver medal at the Olympics and Champions League, and the iconic Xavi Hernandez is now on a new mission — to provide children from disadvantaged communities a safe space to play the beautiful sport.

Xavi has been an ambassador of Generation Amazing since 2016 — which is the human and social legacy programme initiated by the Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. He kickstarted the construction of a new community pitch in a corporation school in Colaba on Monday.

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Clad in a blue t-shirt and flaunting a thick paste of vermilion on his forehead, Xavi spoke about the essence of the initiative. “We are using football in many communities in many countries to help the kids. We are opening this community and I am very proud to be a part of this amazing project. Qatar isn't just organising the World Cup, they are helping many people. This is the main objective of Generation Amazing. We are using football to help the kids,” he said.

Xavi's association with the initiative began in 2016, when he signed for Al Sadd in the Qatar Stars League. The 39-year-old has been in Qatar since and recently, he signed a two-year extension. Having seen Qatar football closely, he opined that the 2019 AFC Asian Cup win will serve as a massive boost heading into the World Cup.

 

“You saw how they played and won the Asian Cup. They deserved the title and now have time to prepare for the World Cup and also have the Copa America. They have a very good generation of talented young players. It all started with the Aspire Academy [in Doha] in 2006. They have a project, that doesn't end in 2022, but it's the main objective,” he said.

While FIFA is bidding to make the 2022 Qatar World Cup a 48-team affair, Xavi opined that a 32-team World Cup would be better. “Qatar is working to host a 32-team World Cup and it will be difficult to change now (to 48 teams). I think its more than enough to have 32 teams. It's better for the spectators and even for the players; 48 teams will not be good, in my opinion, because it may become too long,” he said.

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He is away from the La Liga action, but Xavi is still rooting for his alma mater. Commenting on Barcelona's upcoming Champions League tie against Manchester United, he said “From now, the Champions League will be really tough for everyone. The quarterfinals are a big war and it will be exciting to see what happens,” he said, before quickly adding, “But I think Barca is one of the favourites, of course.”

The Spaniard also added that he keeps a close watch on the Indian Super League (ISL) owing to the strong Spanish flavour. “I saw that Bengaluru beat FC Goa yesterday. I know because Sergio Lobera is coaching Goa and Bengaluru is (coached by) Carles Cuadrat. I know Ferran Corominas and Edu Bedia and I know the ISL because Delhi Dynamos has a good relation with the Aspire Academy. The ISL is improving, I see,” he said.

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