Friday 18 November 2022, 04:00

Matuidi: Football has the power to create a better world

“Football is about moments of shared enjoyment, of joy, and of great emotion. It’s the only sport that can bring together so many people.” We are living in uncertain times filled with conflicts and global crises. The world is divided. The FIFA World Cup™, through the power of football will bring people together to cross borders, unite and celebrate together. Football Unites the World will be a global movement to inspire, unite and develop through football.

FIFA Legends have shared their stories of how football united their respective countries during uncertain times. With the much-anticipated kick-off to Qatar 2022 just around the corner, we took a trip down memory lane with France’s Blaise Matuidi. Relatively few footballers throughout history have had the privilege of appearing at a FIFA World Cup. It goes without saying that those who have competed at two tournaments are even rarer, and if one of those adventures happened to include a victory in the Final, it would put them in a very elite club indeed. Blaise Matuidi, who was a key component in the France teams that lost in the quarter-finals of Brazil 2014 and lifted the trophy at Russia 2018, is a member of that club, although sometimes he has to pinch himself to verify it really happened.

“I had dreamed of things like that, but I had never dared to think that those dreams might come true one day,” said the combative midfielder. “It was amazing to share such an incredible experience with my family, friends and team-mates. It was just pure joy for the entire tournament.” The Frenchman’s love affair with the World Cup had begun two decades earlier. In 1998, Les Bleus, featuring stars such as Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps and Lilian Thuram, made quite an impression on an 11-year-old Matuidi, as they lifted the trophy on home soil. “That’s my first World Cup memory,” he said. “I was young, and I would dream about that France team – that was an incredible generation. “I lived in a council estate in Paris. We were surrounded by large blocks of flats, and each time there was a goal, we would all go out onto our balconies. We’d get out pots and pans and bang on them; it would echo round the whole neighbourhood. We were united, the neighbourhood was united, and France was united – all by the same passion, football.”

France's Blaise MATUIDI celebrates after scoring a goal

Matuidi’s life, in which he went from enthusiastic fan to World Cup winner, may have undergone great transformation in 20 years, but the impact that the tournament has on people around the world has certainly not changed. “During the 2018 World Cup, my team-mates and I were also able to see the spirit of togetherness that was taking hold back home after each game,” he said. “Match after match, we could feel it growing. It was magical.” He concluded: “Football has the power to create a better world in the way that it brings towns, regions and countries together. It can even unite the entire world!”