Friday 25 November 2022, 06:00

Milla: Some might say football is more important than politics

“Football plays a vital role in the world, perhaps even more important than politics. People who hate each other sometimes come together thanks to football.” We live in a time of uncertainty, conflict and crisis. We live in a divided world. Thanks to the magic of football, however, the FIFA World Cup™ brings people together from all over the world to celebrate as one. Football Unites the World is a global movement to inspire, unite and develop through football. To back up that message, FIFA Legends have been talking about how the game has allowed their fellow citizens to come together in difficult times. With the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ now in full swing, we asked the great Roger Milla for his view on the unifying power of football and its showpiece tournament. The former Indomitable Lions striker was at the Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday attending the match between Switzerland and Cameroon. Prior to the kick-off he was the special guest at a ceremony in which FIFA President Gianni Infantino paid tribute to him as the oldest goalscorer in the history of the World Cup. “I’m really touched by this recognition and I’m sure all the people of Cameroon are too,” he said afterwards.

That goal Milla scored against Russia at USA 1994 at the age of 42 years and one month earned him a place in the record books, but it was his exploits four years earlier that earned him a place in the hearts of football fans the world over. In scoring four goals at Italy 1990, the then 38-year-old front man, led his country all the way to the quarter-finals, where they took England to extra time in a thriller. Milla’s exuberance, technique and, of course, his trademark corner-flag dance made him one of the most joyful and inspirational players in the history of the game. Explaining why he started dancing a few steps of Makossa (a Cameroonian musical style) to celebrate his goals, he said it was in no way pre-planned: “God guided me to the corner flag to celebrate like that with all the people who have supported me throughout my career.

Roger Milla of Cameroon celebrates scoring his first goal during the 1990 FIFA World Cup between Cameroon and Colombia

“The images went all the way around the world,” said the old Lion, who is well aware of all the joy his team-mates and he brought to the world. “Football plays a vital role in the world, perhaps even more important than politics. People who hate each other sometimes come together thanks to football.”

To mark Qatar 2022, FIFA has joined forces with the World Health Organisation, the Qatari Ministry of Public Health, and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy around the #BringTheMoves campaign, which encourages young people to do more exercise, particularly by creating their own dances and sharing them on social media. It is an initiative that is close to the sprightly septuagenarian dancing legend’s heart: “It’s very important to do physical exercise. We’re not asking to go out and run all day long, but I think running for 30 to 45 minutes a day helps you to revitalise yourself and stay young.”