By Nam Tae-hee
It is such an indescribable feeling to win the 2018 Amir Cup at the Khalifa International Stadium, the venue of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The stadium is world class – smooth pitch, majestic stands, beautiful arch and incredibly efficient open-air cooling system because of which the temperature inside the stadium dropped by 20 degrees centigrade if not more.
Winning the final there in the presence of His Highness the Amir, the Honourable FIFA President and in front of 45,000 spectators is the stuff of any footballer’s dreams.
The icing on the cake was initiating the build-up play which culminated in my club Al Duhail’s winning goal.
Association with the FIFA World Cup is the ultimate goal for any footballer and I am no different.
Before the evening of May 19, 2018, my strongest connection with a FIFA World Cup was when my country hosted Asia’s first tournament when I was 10.
I remember celebrating with my friends when Park Ji-sung scored a great goal against Portugal’s golden generation which took Korea Republic to the round of 16 as group winners.
Winning the Amir Cup in a 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium has been such a proud and joyous experience that I have temporarily forgotten the pain of coming to know, only earlier in the same week, that I will miss a second successive FIFA World Cup since I made my senior national team debut.
Qatar, the host nation of Asia’s second FIFA World Cup, has given me so many on and off field memories, which have kept me motivated as a professional footballer.
In March 2012, a couple of months after I had played my first game for the club, I earned the distinction of becoming the player to score my club’s first ever goal in an Asian competition.
I won five league titles and won the Amir Cup once before in 2016. I was voted the country’s Best Player at the QFA Awards 2017.
I will always cherish all these memories but the crowning glory will be the 2018 Amir Cup win at Khalifa Stadium.
I will be 31 when Qatar hosts the World Cup and deep inside I have a feeling that my second home could fittingly be the stage where I fulfil my dream of playing a World Cup.
I have represented my country on the big international stage before – I was part of the Korea Republic team which won bronze in the 2012 London Olympics and I started in Asia’s biggest fixture, the 2015 AFC Asian Cup final, which ended in a heart-breaking defeat in extra time.
But the FIFA World Cup is the Holy Grail for all professional footballers, and 2022 will be my last chance to realise my dream.
But even if I were to miss out on the grandest stage of them all as a player, I will still be in Qatar as a fan during the country’s date with history.
People of Qatar have given me love, respect and adulation. I will remember all this with gratitude.
Now Qatar has also given me the treasured feeling of winning silverware in a World Cup stadium.
Thank you Qatar.
(As told to Abilash Nalapat,
Supreme Committee for
Delivery & Legacy)
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