Indian workers helping to build the 2022 World Cup had the trip of a lifetime when they were taken to the opening match of the tournament in Russia.
Bhulinder Singh was among eight workers invited to accompany the former Barcelona star, Xavi Hernandez, to Moscow.
Xavi is global ambassador for the tournament Qatar will host in four years’ time and head of the Generation Amazing programme, tasked with helping build football at grassroots level as part of its World Cup legacy.
During their five-day trip to Russia, the group attended the opening ceremony and first match of the tournament at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium which saw the hosts beat Saudi Arabia 5-0.
Bhulinder, an Xavi and Spain fan on his first World Cup, said: ‘We have enjoyed this experience a lot over the past few days in Russia, we made new friends from different countries and it was amazing to attend out first World Cup match.
‘Through media and social media we have already reached many people with our experience, and our families were very excited to see me at that level. Everyone thinks they can also achieve something like this. So they said I am an inspiration for them.
‘We are bringing about social change by organising workshops and activities in our communities in Doha, and developing people further through football’.
Among the party were also workers from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who were all hand-picked because of their work as coaches who could go back to Doha and inspire others.
Xavi, who won the World Cup with Spain in 2010, who met up with Russian youth footballers, said: ‘We have workers here from Qatar, but the programme also helps people in their home countries. As the word says, I think this programme is spectacular, so I am proud to have shared this experience with this group.
‘To be at the World Cup is a once in a lifetime experience, and I too am learning a lot every day from all those taking part in the fantastic project’.
Dawood Irfan, also from India, said: ‘One of the best experiences of this trip was being with Xavi. He is a big star but very down to earth, we got to know him well in the workshops and he shared his experiences and his challenges, as well as how he overcame them. It inspires me to be part of this project. Football breaks down all the barriers’.
Siraiul Islam Howlader, from Bangladesh, said afterwards: ‘I was so excited to be in the stadium. Before this I watched four World Cups tournaments on TV. Our house in the village had no television, so we had to go to a friend’s house to watch the games. Now Generation Amazing has brought me here, to Moscow, to see my first match in person.’
Generation Amazing, which was set up by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, hopes to benefit a million people around the world by 2022 by promoting football at grassroots level.
Sadique Rahman, also from India, added: ‘The programme develops the skills that we have in us, Generation Amazing discovered these capabilities and supported us to reach the top level’.
Qatar will also be taking sixteen youth ambassadors from Qatar, India, The Philippines, Nepal and Pakistan to the Russian tournament.