This year’s World Cup in Qatar has been tagged “the best ever”, by Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, football’s global governing body.
Speaking on Friday, December 16 in Doha, after a FIFA council meeting, Infantino said the success of the world cup was down to the “unique, cohesive power that this World Cup has shown”.
Describing what he called “the transformative legacy of this World Cup”, he said “many people from around the world have come to Qatar and have discovered the Arab world, which they didn’t know or they knew only for what was portrayed to them.”
Morocco made history as the first African team to reach a World Cup semifinal, losing to defending champions France, who defeated the Atlas Lions 2-0.
Infantino hailed the new set of countries making it to the tournament’s knockout phase, as well as the first female referee at football’s showpiece event.
“Teams from all the continents moved to the knockout phase, showing that there is something happening when we speak about football becoming truly global for the first time,” he said.
“I think Morocco’s performance has been exceptional. Fantastic … They played from the heart but also with an undeniable quality. Reaching the semifinals of the World Cup doesn’t happen by chance,” Infantino noted.
He congratulated Morocco, and also Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana and Tunisia.
“This puts on display the level of African football. I am very happy. The moment of African football was always about to arrive. And it finally did. And the fact that, in the next World Cup, the number of African teams participating will almost double will help that.”
He praised the first woman who refereed a match, Stephanie Frappart from France.
“The World Cup has been an incredible success on all fronts,” Infantino added.
“The main one being the fans, the behaviour, the joyful atmosphere, the bringing of people together. The fans meeting the Arab world, it has been very important for the future of all of us.”
The World Cup in Qatar has also helped FIFA generate more than $1bn.
FIFA raked in around $7.5bn in the 2018-2022 cycle, and Infantino estimated income upwards of $11bn by the end of the 2026 World Cup, to be held across North America.
So far, already 3.27 million spectators have attended the games, compared with an overall 3.3 million at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The third-place playoff between Croatia and Morocco will happen on Saturday December 17, while the flagship World Cup final between Argentina and France on Sunday, Qatar’s National Day.