Nasser Al-Khelaifi has left his office on Avenue Emile Zola in Boulogne (Paris) to settle in Doha during the Qatar World Cup as one of the most influential ambassadors of his country abroad. As a Qatari citizen, he also speaks to MARCA about the criticism coming from the West for holding the World Cup in his country. He is the president of PSG with an open heart: the defence of his country and his people, the future of PSG and Mbappe, the Super League, the probable departure from the Parc des Princes and his Premier Padel project.
Q: What’s it like for Qatar to be hosting the World Cup?
It’s amazing to have the World Cup in Qatar and this region. It brings the whole region together, across cultures and languages, ages and religions. In the last few days, Morocco and Belgium, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other teams of the world all playing – crazy atmospheres. Passionate. So passionate about sports, the facilities, the stadiums, the fans, its fantastic. All the people here are so proud to receive the world in Qatar. Also it’s for families, there is no hostile environment or crowd issues like you see in Europe – it is such a warm and inclusive atmosphere, everyone celebrating together.
Q: Do you think that there is a vision that is not actually the reality in Qatar, because we are always hearing things about the country?
We are not perfect, we have made mistakes – like everyone. But we have developed as a nation and a society fastest than any other before. What frustrates me is that people talk about Qatar and they’ve never been in Qatar. I don’t understand. They need to come here to see for themselves – the people, the culture, the facilities, the values, the humility we have here, everything. All the Qatari people are so proud and so honored to receive the world; they open their houses, their hearts, that is our culture, that is our tradition, that is what Qatari people are. It’s in our DNA to receive people, to open our hearts and our houses for everyone. It’s a different culture than in Europe where in some places it’s not normal to invite someone into your house if you don’t know them – but here our door is always open. During this World Cup I’ve seen some many people open their houses, to meet new friends, to share food. That is the Qatari people, and they are so proud.
Q: As a Qatarian, when you hear about the human rights in Qatar.
I will say it again, we are not perfect. Like everyone, mistakes have been made. But we are good people, we are nice people, we welcome people, we care about people. Remember we’re a small nation, so friendship is important. I also think there have been issues before with other World Cups and major events, but the scrutiny here has been completely disproportionate. But we’ll keep our good grace and look forward positively.
To give you context on what it means for the region and our people, I am not involved in the organization of the World Cup, I have nothing to do with the organization – but as all Qatari people today, they feel they are organizing it for the world! Kids, women, men, all people, young generation, old generation, everybody Qatari and non-Qatari people all trying to make the tournament a success. That’s our DNA and our culture.
We are good people, we are nice people, we welcome people, we care about people. Remember we’re a small nation, so friendship is important
Q: Who are your favorites for the World Cup?
Of course I support my PSG players 100%, and of course first my national team, Qatar. I think there may be a few surprises too – of course Brazil, even Argentina coming back; and we have Spain, definitely Portugal, France, strong teams; and Germany if they qualify will come strong. Spain, the national team of Spain, they are young and playing together, they are a very good team.
Q: There are a lot of rumours in France that once the World Cup in Qatar is over, the story is finished. That’s the end. Is that true or just rumours?
You make me laugh, I don’t know if I should answer this question to be honest, because it’s a joke you know. This is just the beginning for QSI and PSG and everything we’re involved in.
We are about to enter phase 2 where we’ll see some amazing growth. Our most exciting chapters are still to come for PSG and our group.
Q: Parc de France, what is the situation right now? Are you leaving, thinking of leaving, an agreement with the council?
Our first option is to stay, but I think the City Council does not want us to stay. They are pushing us out. For 5 years we have been discussing with them. Everytime it’s false promises – today, tomorrow, this election, next election, we are tired of this. We need a proper settlement. I absolutely love Parc des Princes, it’s our history and I respect this more than anything, and staying has always been our option 1. But I don’t think they want us there. Around 80 million have invested in the stadium out of our own pocket, but it’s not our stadium, who else would do this? We want a stadium like the other clubs – we need to increase our revenues, to have a better stadium for our fans; and more fans want to come in then we can facilitate. The City Council think we are joking, but we are not joking and are totally very serious about other options. We are looking at other options because I don’t think we are welcome at Parc des Princes anymore. They are playing games with us. 5 years we are tired.
Q: New investor in PSG? Mbappe leaving?
We have significant investor interest in our Club, which is fantastic. They want to have minority interests and we are talking to them very openly. In these discussions, the club’s valuation is over 4 billion – that’s not a goal, it’s the valuation of the market. It’s fantastic. We built a brand and a business from the ground up, and we’re now seeing the results of our work. Remember, this is just the beginning – our project is long term and ambitious.
On Mbappe, every month, every week, every day I have to answer this – he has just renewed his contract and everyone is happy. The team hasn’t lost a game all season, and we’ve now sold out 100 matches in a row.
On Mbappe, every month, every week, every day I have to answer this – he has just renewed his contract and everyone is happy
Q: How is your new venture Premier Padel?
It’s fantastic – what we have achieved in less than a year is miraculous. The tour is going everywhere – the players are at the heart of everything. We have some major partners looking to invest and join us. The events we’ve had in Madrid, Rome, Qatar, Argentina and now Mexico – and many others – they’re world class events. Padel is an enormous passion of mine, and we’re building something very special.
Q: A final word on the Super League and the decision on 15th December?
To be honest, I feel sad for them because they have proved time and time again that they just don’t understand football and its ecosystem. Football is not a legal contract, it is a social contract. When the fans were protesting in the streets when the not-so-Super-League launched and failed, they were not shouting about legal commitments. Football is a bond between clubs and players, between players and fans, between fans and communities. That will never change.