By Sahan Bidappa/Doha
Paris Saint-Germain fever gripped the Khalifa International Stadium yesterday, as die-hard fans of the French Ligue 1 champions thronged the venue to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars in training.
It was Neymar, the most expensive footballer in the world, who was darling of the fans as his every move was cheered on by the fans. With the Khalifa Stadium being one of the venues for the 2022 World Cup, Neymar got a feel of the atmosphere he can expect in four years’ time.
And the Brazilian forward was thrilled at the prospect of playing at the venue and in Qatar in 2022.
“It was a great feeling to be able to train at a stadium which will host the 2022 World Cup. I am excited to represent my country in 2022 and to write the history of Brazil,” said Neymar, after a one-hour workout with his team-mates, who are here in Doha for annual winter training camp.
“The fans here are just amazing and I am very happy to have experienced this. This is my first time in this stadium, the temperature was so wonderful, and the fans’ presence made it even more amazing,” he added.
PSG will wrap up their four-day Qatar tour today with a training session at Aspire Academy, and Neymar said it was an ideal preparation for the second half of the season, including a crucial Champions League match against Manchester United on February 20.
“We have come to train in Qatar for the upcoming matches, especially in the Champions League and it’s been good so far. We have a very strong opponent in the Champions League but we are also a strong team that is capable of winning the title,” Neymar said.
PSG’s young sensation Kylian too was popular among fans, with the French World Cup winner soaking in the atmosphere at the Khalifa Stadium.
“I think it’s important to have contact with your fans. Not only here, but around the world. They have had the chance to come and see us in train. It was an opportunity for us to spend some time together,” the 20-year-old said, after posing for pictures with fans.
Meanwhile PSG’s head coach Thomas Tuchel and his assistant Maxwell toured the sports facilities at the Aspire Complex and attended a youth training session alongside the Aspire Academy coaches.
Tuchel was left impressed as he got a tour of 250-acre facility. “It’s exceptional, incredible. This is one of the best pitches I have ever seen. The academy is just great. The complex has incredible infrastructure, it has many features. It’s an inspiration for me to learn and improve myself and to focus on the game,” the German coach said.
On Monday, PSG players had participated in numerous activities organised by the club and its sponsors. The Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) took Neymar, Gianluigi Buffon, Angel Di Maria and Thiago Silva on a trip to Sealine beach to film an advertisement on athletes’ performance, intensity and perseverance. Few other players were among the first passengers to ride the soon-to-open metro line to Al Wakrah Stadium, and enjoyed an exclusive tour of the arena currently under construction for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Dani Alves, Edinson Cavani, Marquinhos, Mbappe, and Marco Verratti teamed up at the Kempinski Hotel for the shooting of an advert for the Qatari bank QNB.
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