Former Barcelona star Xavi Hernandez put some local schoolchildren through their paces when he kick-started the construction of a new football pitch in Mumbai.
The former Spain midfielder travelled to India in his role as an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Xavi, who was a World Cup winner with Spain in 2010, spearheads Qatar’s Generation Amazing project, which has so far seen 28 community pitches spring up across the Middle East, besides two in India at Rurka Kalan and Nagpur.
The scheme, which uses sport to positively impact lives, has so far reached 250,000 people in seven countries, and hopes to reach a million in total by 2022. It aims to provide children from disadvantaged communities with safe places to play, enabling football for development programmes to be carried out.
To celebrate the occasion, 39-year-old Xavi had a kickabout on the proposed site of the new pitch with local schoolchildren and youth ambassadors from across India. They were joined by local partner Oscar Foundation, the Qatari General Counsel in Mumbai, Saif Bin Ali Muhanadi, and Abhishek Yadav, Director of National Teams at the All Indian Football Federation (AIFF).
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“I am very proud to be in India with Generation Amazing to visit the community in Mumbai to speak to the participants and to hear about their experiences,” said Xavi Hernandez.
He added: “It is a very special moment to be able to kick off the construction of a community pitch in this area, which will clearly bring great benefits to those involved in the Generation Amazing programme and in the wider community.”
“I’m particularly excited to be able to visit this rapidly developing football nation which has such great potential, and to see for myself the impact which Generation Amazing is having on the ground,” said the football star.
Xavi’s India trip came three years after he visited refugee camps in Jordan to see the Generation Amazing programme in operation there.
He is of the opinion that FIFA should abandon plans to increase the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 to 48 teams.
“It’s too much and too long,” said Xavi, who now plays for the Qatari side, Al Sadd. “Imagine 48 teams in Qatar, it will not be good in my opinion.”
He added: “It’s still for the organisers to decide, but for now Qatar is doing everything to prepare for 32 teams and it will be difficult to change it for more teams. Also, it’s good for football to have 32. That’s more than enough.”
(Anthony Harwood is an independent contributor)