Former India stalwart Jo Paul Ancheri left impressed by Qatar's 2022 FIFA World Cup preparations

Former India skipper Jo Paul Ancheri has lauded Qatar’s organisation and operational structure as the Gulf country prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The Kerala-born former footballer was highly impressed by the facilities on offer during his recent visit to Qatar’s Supreme Committee’s Legacy Pavilion in Doha.

Qatar holds a special place in Ancheri’s heart given that the versatile player made his senior debut for India in the Gulf county during the 1994 Doha Independence Cup.

Looking back on his recent visit to the SC Legacy Pavilion in Doha, Ancheri said, “It is a wonderful experience to be back in Qatar. I made my international debut here at the Khalifa Stadium (Doha) in 1994, and I have been able to come back to Qatar a couple of times after that.

“I am happy to see that Qatar has made a good beginning to finding the best approach towards football whether it be in operational matters such as the hosting of the 2022 World Cup or in technical elements, as seen from the emergence of the country as an Asian football power by winning the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.”

Qatar has left no stone unturned for the successful organisation for the 2022 World Cup and their progress has not only reflected on the ground with respect to the stadia, but also on the field with the senior national team.

Qatar surprised one and all when their fairly young squad captured the country’s maiden AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup title in the 2019 edition held in the UAE.

“The Qatar Football Association have planned well and they worked hard for more than 12 years towards this success,” said Ancheri.

“The Qatar national team now has a good opportunity to give a good account of themselves at the 2022 World Cup thereby realizing the Federation's long-term objectives. I hope the national team can give fans some good results,” he added.

While Qatar’s development across all age groups has been rapid, Ancheri feels India still has a long way to go to reach the same level. The 43-year-old pointed to India’s performance in the FIFA U17 World Cup held at home in 2017 where the team crashed out without a single point in the group stage.

“India has just made the first steps in grassroots football by starting baby leagues. It will take time to build upwards till the U-16 level,” the former skipper remarked.

“Our kids are not able to play matches even inside India. Only if they play in as many league matches as possible will they get the confidence. Practice alone counts for nothing if it is devoid of actual match experience. Kids need to play a lot of games in the grassroots leagues.

“Our national team played in the 2017 FIFA U-17 WC, but it was evident that our boys lacked the match exposure from their formative years.”