DAVID BECKHAM has backed the controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar saying it was important the tournament is taken to different countries to inspire young fans to take up the game.
The 44-year-old was speaking during a visit to the tiny Gulf state to watch the Club World Cup, which sees Liverpool play in the final against Brazil's Flamengo on Saturday.
Beckham said he wished he was still playing football after touring the stadiums to be used in three years’ time, saying: “Players are going to be spoilt here.”
Qatar was a controversial choice when it was awarded the tournament in 2010 and has been dogged by allegations of corruption over the bidding process.
It has also been criticised by human rights groups over the treatment of foreign workers helping to build the stadia, and has been forced to introduce reforms to improve conditions.
But Beckham defended the decision, saying it was important to take the tournament to new countries.
He said: “That’s what the World Cup is all about – giving countries the chance to host the biggest competition in the game.
“It changes economies, changes people’s lives, changes fan experiences and gives people an opportunity to experience football in places you wouldn’t expect to visit.
“It’s given Qatar an opportunity to do something that’s so special and, as you see, something unique is really being created here.”
Beckham, who won 19 major trophies in a 20-year playing career with Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and Paris St Germain, added: “I think that’s the greatest thing about the World Cup – it inspires future generations.
“There will be a lot of children in Qatar seeing their own national team playing games and saying ‘maybe that can be one day.”
Many critics have complained about the need to move the tournament to winter to avoid the searing summer heat, which will disrupt the Premier League for weeks in November and December.
Neville said: “We’ve got to get our heads around the fact that the World Cup in Qatar is going to happen. Nobody is going to stop it now.
“I was a supporter of having a World Cup in the Middle East. In the 21st century, to suggest we shouldn’t have a World Cup in a large region of the world is just wrong.
“Fundamentally it’s the ‘World’ Cup and that is a tournament that should be responsible for driving change in their countries.”
Talking about the poor conditions of workers he said: “The spotlight has been shone on them. They have been forced by the likes of Amnesty International to make those changes.
“That has changed quite a bit. Ultimately that’s because the eyes of the world have been on them.
“Some of the accommodation they were in was uncomfortable. We wouldn’t think they were acceptable conditions to live in.
“But I’ve also had the same feeling visiting shanty towns in South Africa, the favelas in Brazil, and nobody denied those countries the right to host the World Cup.”
Beckham believes the next World Cup will be a "dream" for players due to the state-of-the-art facilities and short distances to travel between games, with all stadia in a 30 mile radius.
He added: “I think as a player and a fan you want to visit a World Cup competition with great facilities, safe facilities, great hotels and great culture – and that’s what Qatar is all about.”
During a tour of Education City Stadium with World Cup supremo, Hassan Al Thawadi, he said: “I wish I was still playing because to play in stadiums like this, it’s a dream. Players are going to be spoilt here.”
Qatar had been using this week’s Club World Cup as a dummy run for the main event in three years, with special drinking zones serving alcohol for fans.