It’s almost seven years since former England and Manchester United defender Paul Parker moved to Asia. With the continent set to stage its second-ever FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar six years from now, the man who set up Gary Lineker’s equaliser in the 1990 FIFA World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany believes that the Qatar national team can make a resounding statement to the world.
Singapore-based Parker, who played in all but one of England’s games at Italy 1990, believes Qatar can take a significant step to establishing themselves as a leading footballing nation in the region by first securing qualification to Russia 2018.
“Everyone in Asia knows that Qatar will organise a great World Cup in terms of provision of infrastructure and facilities,” Parker told www.sc.qa. “But, as a football man, I feel that nothing will make a lasting global impression like the national team’s performance in the tournament.”
Parker, who has extensively coached in the Asia Pacific region, continued: “Qatar have already announced their intentions by topping the group in the second round qualifiers for Russia 2018, losing only the final game after they had secured the top spot. They should now fight it out against Iran and South Korea in the third round.
“Booking a berth to Russia will be a huge step towards ensuring that the country is on the verge of being recognised as one of the leading footballing nations of the region going into the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
Parker compared Qatar’s situation of hosting the World Cup to that of USA in 1994 – and the former defender believes they can go on to emulate the North American nation in terms of football development.
“The USA were not the whipping boys of Group A in that tournament as was expected. Instead, they defeated Colombia and made it out of the group,” said Parker. “They are now emerging as a major footballing nation with talented youngsters across elite European academies. Qatar can emulate this. In fact, it has a historical advantage in that football has been the main sport.
Parker also added that Qatar should take inspiration from fellow Asian nations Japan and Korea Republic, who co-hosted the tournament in 2002, with the latter storming to a valiant semi-final finish.
“The decision makers of Qatari football have shown they are not averse to spending big,” he said. “This is important because the best talent comes at a price. Qatar should take a detailed look at Japan and South Korea, who had spent big on youth development in their clubs and domestic leagues in the years leading to the first-ever Asian World Cup in 2002.
“They were targeting sustained growth and had evolved a distinct development strategy and got the right people to implement it. They also continued with the vision after 2002, thereby ensuring continuity.”
So in 2022, could an Asian team emulate South Korea’s achievement of reaching the semi-final in 2002? “I sincerely hope so as I have been living on the continent for a while now,” said Parker. “However, irrespective of whether this happens, what I am sure of is that for a World Cup to be successful it does not have to be hosted by a European or South American powerhouse.”