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Emmanuel Petit hoping World Cup can help improve Qatar’s human rights record

Emmanuel Petit believes the 2022 World Cup in Qatar can help improve people’s lives (LiveScore/PA handout)
Emmanuel Petit believes the 2022 World Cup in Qatar can help improve people’s lives (LiveScore/PA handout)

World Cup winner Emmanuel Petit hopes the upcoming World Cup in Qatar can help to improve the country’s human rights record.

The Gulf state has faced fierce criticism over its treatment of migrant workers and criminalisation of same-sex relationships since being awarded the global showpiece event in 2010.

Former France midfielder Petit, whose life changed “forever” after helping his country clinch World Cup glory in 1998, believes Qatar 2022 can be a major force for good.

Emmanuel Petit, right, scored for France in their 1998 World Cup final win against Brazil
Emmanuel Petit, right, scored for France in their 1998 World Cup final win against Brazil (Adam Butler/PA)

He told the PA news agency: “I understand everything surrounding Qatar, but what is the solution? We don’t do anything.

“Football can open doors where politics cannot. If you don’t do anything, nothing will change.

“If football can help change the human rights of people over there, that for me would be the biggest win of the World Cup.”

Petit won the Premier League and FA Cup double with Arsenal in 1998 and later that summer scored France’s third goal in their 3-0 World Cup final win against Brazil in Paris.

He also had spells at Monaco, Barcelona and Chelsea, but nothing else in his illustrious career came close to that July evening at the Stade de France when Petit and his team-mates became world champions.

“I know what the World Cup means to me and my old team-mates. This is something very special for me, it changed my life forever,” he said.

“You can win 10 championships in a row with your club, which will be an amazing achievement, but it stops with your own fans.

“When you play for your country you are an ambassador. It’s beyond football.

Petit won the Premier League and FA Cup double with Arsenal in 1997/98
Petit played for Arsenal from 1997 to 2000 (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“You touch people’s hearts, even those who are not interested in football. You become a part of the history of your country.

“It’s been 24 years since France won it, but every single day people remind me about what we did in 1998.”

Hosts Qatar play Ecuador in the opening game of this year’s tournament on November 20.

England and holders France – who begin their group campaigns against Iran and Australia, respectively – are among the favourites.

France midfielder N’Golo Kante will miss the 2022 World Cup after undergoing hamstring surgery
France midfielder N’Golo Kante, right will miss the 2022 World Cup after undergoing hamstring surgery (Chris Radburn/PA)

But Petit, speaking as ambassador for LiveScore’s Fear of Missing Scores campaign, feels both nations could struggle to reach the final at the Lusail Stadium on December 18.

The 52-year-old, currently a TV and radio pundit with various French and UK broadcasters, said: “I think we have similarities. Both have very good squads with a lot of options and very talented players.

“But both teams are missing important players. Because of what’s happened to the spine of the French team, Didier Deschamps has had to change his tactics.

“We’re not going to play with three defenders any more, we’re going to play with four because we’re missing (Paul) Pogba and (N’Golo) Kante in midfield.

Arsenal bus Vieira/Petit FA Cup
Emmanuel Petit, right, celebrates with Patrick Vieira after Arsenal secured a league and cup double in 1998 (John Stillwell/PA)

“It’s the same with England because there are doubts about important players, especially at the back.

“(Harry) Maguire has not been playing at Manchester United, Kyle Walker has been injured, Reece James and Ben Chilwell are out.

“I’ve no idea how England are going to play in defence and there is the same problem with France, especially in midfield.”

:: Emmanuel Petit is supporting LiveScore’s Fear of Missing Scores campaign. If you’re unable to watch the World Cup live, download the LiveScore app for real-time updates. You can download the app via this link:

https://www.livescore.com/en/mobile/