“You give a ball to some children and they’ll just play. They don’t need to talk to each other. Language plays no role, and nor do religion and skin colour. Football unites people.”
We are living in uncertain times filled with conflicts and global crises. The world is divided. Thanks to the power of football, the FIFA World Cup™ brings down borders and joins people together to celebrate the beautiful game.
Football Unites the World is a global movement that inspires, unites and spreads through football. FIFA Legends have been sharing their stories of how football united their respective countries during uncertain times. After the first few days of action at Qatar 2022, Lothar Matthaus tells us about the power of the game to make the world a better place.
Having spent 40 years in football as a player, club coach, national team manager and pundit, Matthaus could be considered a veritable encyclopaedia of the sport he knows inside out. But thanks to his talent, achievements, longevity and charisma, he has earned an even loftier status: that of a legend.
A World Cup winner in 1990, when Germany clinched their third title, he is currently in Qatar, where he hopes to see Die Nationalmannschaft lift the Trophy for a fifth time, eight years after their most recent success at Brazil 2014.
“Germany is a football nation,” explains the former midfielder. “The supporters always look forward to this tournament because we know it’s a moment of togetherness when we support the team and when we can win the title. We’ve already won it four times and I think that great tradition plays an important role for the fans, whether they’re at the stadium or watching on television.”
Hosts Qatar obviously do not share that same winning culture yet, but Matthaus believes staging the tournament in the Middle East and the Arab world for the first time will be hugely beneficial for the game’s development. “In the past, the World Cup only ever took place in Europe and South America, but football belongs to the whole world, to every country,” says the erstwhile Bayern Munich stalwart. “That’s why I think it’s important to bring the World Cup to a country where football wasn’t as present before.
“Twenty years ago, we had a first World Cup in Asia – in Japan and Korea Republic,” he adds. “In 2010, we had the first one on the African continent, in South Africa. Now, we’re here in the Middle East. This World Cup, like all the others before it, will attract a lot of attention and help promote football.”
When it comes to promoting the game, the Germany icon knows what he is talking about. Matthaus spent his playing days in his homeland, Italy and the USA, before a series of coaching stints in Austria, Serbia, Hungary, Brazil, Israel and Bulgaria. “Football is the most important sport,” says the man who won 150 caps for his nation. “It unites people and brings them together.
“They might not speak the same language, but they all know what football means. Football unites people and creates friendships. It’s the easiest sport to play. You give a ball to some children and they’ll just play. They don’t need to talk to each other. Language plays no role, and nor do religion and skin colour. Football unites people and, because of that, it’s essential for world peace.”