Former African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto’o said the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League all-English final between Manchester City and Chelsea tomorrow is too close to call, adding there is a thin line between the two Premier League sides.
The Cameroonian who won the UCL twice with Barcelona and once with Inter Milan believed no quarter would be asked and none would be given when the two best teams in Europe clash, tomorrow at the Porto’s Estadio do Dragao in Portugal.
While this is Manchester City’s first time in the final in club history, this is Chelsea’s third final appearance. The Blues have one UCL title to their name, beating Bayern Munich nine years ago.
It’s also worth noting Chelsea are the first club to make the men’s and women’s UEFA Champions League finals in the same season.
But Eto’o reckoned all of the above might count for nothing in what would be the second all- English final in the past three seasons.
“Playing in these big games is what every player dreams of,” the 40-year old Cameroonian and Qatar 2022 Legacy Ambassador said matter-of-factly as he reflected on a unique season while looking ahead to next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
“During my career, I had the honour of playing in many important matches, including the Champions League final on three occasions – winning it twice with Barcelona and once with Inter Milan – so I know how special it is to experience these moments with family, teammates and, especially, the fans.
“I am happy to see my old club Chelsea qualify for the Champions League final once again. For some, Manchester City are the favourites to lift the trophy, but in my opinion, when it comes to a final there is no such thing as favourites. It is just one game, so anything is possible. Time and time again, we have seen teams arrive at a final unfancied, only to leave as champions.
“For the young players such as Phil Foden and Mason Mount, this will be their first time playing in such an important game. Despite their age, both players have had an impressive season and could have a big impact on the outcome.
“There are many great players past and present who haven’t had these opportunities, so it is important for the players to savour the experience and do everything they can to have an influence on the game,” he noted.
Meanwhile, ahead of next year‘s World Cup, Eto’o has enthused about the prospect of Qatar hosting the best Mundial ever.
“The delayed CAF Super Cup final between Al Ahly of Egypt and Renaissance Berkane of Morocco will also be played this week, in Doha (today),” he said.
“It is great to see important games such as this played in Qatar as it offers the country another opportunity to fine-tune its preparations ahead of next year’s FIFA World Cup.
“With just over 18 months to go until the first ball is kicked at the FIFA World Cup in 2022, excitement is really starting to build in Qatar and across the region.
“Qatar 2022 will be a World Cup of firsts in many ways, and one that I hope will be remembered for the right reasons; for the action on the pitch, the unforgettable fan experiences and the positive legacy it will leave for Qatar, the Middle East and the Arab world.
“In recent months, we have seen footballers raise concerns about human rights issues and other societal problems, such as racism. I have always believed that, where possible, it is important for players to use their platforms to shine a light on any issues in order to accelerate positive change across the world.
“Hosting the World Cup is a privilege that comes with a significant amount of responsibility. From the start, Qatar has said that it wants to use the tournament as an opportunity to deliver sustainable, positive change in the country and leave behind a meaningful legacy beyond 2022.”
Eto’o further hinted that Qatar 2022 will be the most compact World Cup in history: “My personal experience of Qatar has been a positive one. I have been a resident for three years now, having finished my football career playing for Qatar Sports Club in 2019.
“While Qatar has its own unique culture and traditions, it also shares many similarities with previous World Cup host countries. Its people are very welcoming and family-oriented, so in this regard, it reminds me of Brazil in 2014 or South Africa in 2010.
“Qatar and the Arab world also boast some of the most passionate fans I’ve ever encountered; fans who will undoubtedly ensure a vibrant atmosphere in 2022.
“One of the most unique things about this World Cup will be its compact nature. Once the fans, players and officials arrive at Hamad International Airport, they will be able to stay in just one accommodation for the entire tournament.
“While many will stay at hotels or serviced apartments, Qatar will also have some unique accommodation options available to fans, such as the opportunity to camp in the desert or to stay on board a luxury cruise liner moored in West Bay, which will have incredible views of Doha’s cityscape skyline.
I think the tournament will have an Olympics-style feel to it. All the travelling fans and everyone living in Qatar will be in the thick of the action and feel connected to the tournament from start to finish. Fans will be able to attend more than one live match per day, which is very exciting and a first for a modern World Cup. “
He also highlighted the fact that the stadia in Qatar are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.
He volunteered: “I count myself lucky to have visited all four of the tournament-ready stadiums, and each time, I feel like a little kid that has been given a new toy.
“Walking into one of these new stadiums for the first time, I always have the same thought – I wish I was ten years younger, so I could put my boots on and have the privilege of representing the people of Cameroon in this incredible venue.
“Every little detail of each stadium has been designed to deliver the best possible experience for both players and fans. Although for me, one of the most impressive things is that some of the stadiums have been designed in such a way that they can be dismantled after the tournament, with large parts of the infrastructure donated to other countries.
“No other country has ever done something like this before and it will be a great legacy of Qatar 2022,” noted the four-time African Footballer of the Year.