Carlos Alberto sits in a quiet corner of a futuristic congress centre in Doha, explaining why Qatar deserves the 2022 World Cup and a leading Premier League club should snap up Brazil's teenage striker Neymar before he blossoms into the world's best player.
Only a few years ago the first part of that conversation might have seemed entirely incongruous but this tiny desert peninsula is now home to a modern, wealthy, efficient and, above all, geopolitically ambitious nation. Suddenly the game's leading lights are starting to take Qatar extremely seriously. Scores of football's most famous faces have convened in the Arabian Gulf this week. They are here not only for Argentina's friendly with Brazil at the Khalifa Stadium tomorrow night but to endorse Qatar's increasingly convincing endeavours to bring football's international showpiece to the Middle East.
Carlos Alberto is rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Ossie Ardiles and Niall Quinn but, more than 40 years on from his "moment", the 1970 World Cup winner – and scorer of one of the most iconic goals in the tournament's history – he turns more heads than most as he spreads the message that Doha is an ideal place to play and watch football. "Qatar have all the right conditions to host a World Cup," Carlos Alberto says. "They have a good airport, good roads, good stadiums, good hotels and good weather. I like this region, 10 years ago I was national coach to Oman, which is also a very nice place, so I know a bit about the area."
A decade ago the idea of a World Cup played in a Qatari June in temperatures in excess of 40C (104F) would have been laughable but the country's carbon‑neutral, fully air‑conditioned stadiums and training arenas are proving criticism confounding. The country's geopolitical strategic standing as both a hub offering easy links to east and west and a proudly Muslim country in which numerous nationalities and religions happily coexist suggests that the latest cooling technologies and a close to nonexistent crime rate are far from the only reasons why it should win the 2022 vote in Zurich on 2 December.
As locals celebrated the Muslim feast of Eid al Adha, the bid's organisers explained that the fan‑friendly proximity of the Doha‑centric stadia would turn their mooted tournament into a true football festival. Unlike most venues it is an "all in one destination" liberating visiting supporters from costly and tiring internal travel.
Neymar, expected to start alongside Ronaldinho here against Lionel Messi et al, will still be only 30 in 2022. Carlos Alberto believes the Santos forward, whom Chelsea are monitoring, should have, by then, long since established himself as the globe's foremost player. "Neymar is the best Brazilian player in the last five years," he says. "He's already ready to be a big star in Europe. "Sometimes he can be a bit crazy but Neymar can be the best in the world, in two or three years time he can be there."
While Ferguson and Quinn will surely cast interested eyes in the 18-year-old's direction tomorrow night, South American interest may be focused on the dug-outs where both Brazil and Argentina have changed coaches since the World Cup. While, in the latter's case, Sergio Batista has replaced Diego Maradona, Mano Menezes occupies Dunga's old shoes. Football's international guard is changing and, like Batista and Menezes, Qatar aims to be a big part of the game's new world order.
Carlos Alberto was speaking at the 2010 Aspire4Sport Conference and Expo in Doha
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.