Eric Cantona will not watch the Qatar World Cup and has delivered a crippling assessment of this year’s tournament.
The Manchester United legend accused the country of ‘horrible’ treatment of workers who have built the stadiums and says there is no chance of a legacy in the country.
Cantona believes World Cups should be awarded to countries with an opportunity to have a lasting impact and grow football among their population, both male and female. In Qatar, he says there is ‘nothing’.
Eric Cantona says he will not watch the Qatar World Cup and delivered stinging criticism
Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup between 21 November and 18 December this year
Thousands of migrant workers on little money in deadly conditions have died
Speaking exclusively to Sportsmail at the Launch of Looking FC, football trips for fans to experience the world and its cities through football communities, Cantona pulled no punches in his verdict.
He said: ‘To be honest, I don’t really care about the next World Cup, which is not a real World Cup for me. In the last decades, you had a lot of events like the Olympic Games or World Cups in countries that are emerging – like in Russia or China.
‘But Qatar – it’s not the country of football. I’m not against the idea of hosting a World Cup in a country where there is a possibility to develop and promote football, like in South Africa or the United States in the 90’s.
‘Football is the most popular feminine sport in the United States, there is a lot of South American immigration, and a big potential for the sport to develop.
Cantona is launching Looking FC, where he takes fans on immersive football experiences
The controversial tournament will be held this winter but has sparked outrage
‘In fact, now in the United States, the sport which has the most licensed people is football. But in Qatar, the truth is that there is no such potential. There is nothing. It’s only about money I think.
‘It’s only about money and the way they treated the people who built the stadiums, it’s horrible. And thousands of people died. And yet we will celebrate this World Cup.’
Cantona thinks the essence of football is that it is a meritocracy but sees no signs of that in Qatari society.
He went on: ‘Personally, I will not watch it. I understand football is a business. But I thought it was the only place where everybody could have a chance.
‘And I still think that young players can grow up in a very poor area – most players come from poor areas. And they become footballers and have a chance to save themselves and save their family which is great. And if you are good, you are good. It’s a meritocracy – if you’re better than the next guy, you will play and it’s fair.
‘So it’s why, maybe, if meritocracy and potential is the essence of football, it’s even more surprising that we can organize a World Cup in Qatar, and people actually voted for that.’
The Gulf state has been blighted by allegations of human rights abuse of construction workers
There has been a fatal price to pay for a huge number of workers preparing Qatar to host this winter.
More than 6,500 migrant workers have perished in the Middle Eastern country as it has fashioned cities, roads and stadiums out of the desert sand.
The workers believe their friends’ deaths have resulted from being forced to toil too long under the burning sun without shade, breaks and water in temperatures exceeding 40C for just £8.30-a-day.
FIFA are anticipated to bank more than £3billion from football’s showpiece event.
The debacle is at odds with the rich football experience that can be had around the world at club level, one that Cantona is now leading supporters on.
Four-day trips to iconic clubs such as Boca Juniors, Barcelona, PSG and Casablanca are curated by the Frenchman, partnered with Dharma, and leads fans on experiences culminating in watching a match.
Cantona is taking fans around the world to experience different football communities
The Frenchman thinks football comes down to a meritocracy where the best rise to the top
He said: ‘If you are a Manchester United fan, watching a game at Old Trafford is a dream. But that’s only one part of the story – have you heard of FC United and what they stand for?
‘Do you know the chants of Stretford End? Beyond its artistic beauty, do you know the significance of the Marcus Rashford mural to the local community?
‘This is the essence of football, whether you are in Liverpool, Buenos Aires, or Casablanca.’
Looking FC, launched by Eric Cantona in partnership with travel startup Dharma, is a collection of football trips for passionate football fans to experience the world and its cities through its football communities. For more information visit www.lookingfc.com