Kevin Kilbane: A great final in prospect but this World Cup will be a stain on the history of football

It has been upsetting on a daily basis to witness the huge chasm between the lives of the haves and have-nots in Qatar

A perfect World Cup final really. Shame about the venue. But really, Lionel Messi versus Kylian Mbappé, with Antoine Griezmann to my mind set to be named player of the tournament, there is not much more we could want.

The greatest to ever lace boots against the best on the planet right now, as exciting as it comes.

However, after almost five weeks away from home and my young family, in a place like Qatar, I find myself thinking about all the players involved and the importance of humanising everyone forced to go through this very particular World Cup experience.

I have stuck to the football since day one in Qatar but this is an upsetting place to witness the chasm between haves and have-nots. It weighs heavy on you after a few weeks.


Sofia Martinez made us all feel a little lighter the other night. What the Argentinian TV reporter said to Messi after the Croatia game was so important. In a football-mad country, suddenly 90 minutes away from ending all the Maradona comparisons and talk of 1986, she told Messi that none of that matters any more.

She told him he had already won and the result in Lusail on Sunday was irrelevant. She told him thanks, told him his work is complete. It was beautiful. His face spoke a thousand words. Leo Messi looked genuinely elated.

That wouldn’t have been allowed 10 years ago. Not in football.

It was such a nice moment at the end of a World Cup mired in controversy and human rights failings. Her interview came in contrast to what we have seen from the World Cup organisers and Fifa.

I know the media have struggled to get through this past month but our mental health struggles pale in comparison to what the migrant workers continue to experience.

Steven Reid, my old Ireland team-mate, struck a chord with me on Off The Ball this week. Just how he talked about anxiety catching you at any moment but at the same time how lucky we are to be able to go home for Christmas.

Thousands of Uber drivers and other workers in Doha cannot afford to do this next week. For 10 months a year, men from Nepal and throughout Asia are owned by the Qatar companies that sponsor them.

This World Cup will always be a stain on the history of football. The juxtaposition of such a brilliant tournament and the suffering of the migrants who made it happen is the legacy of Qatar 2022.

I think Messi will be all right for Sunday, I hope so anyway, but I am certain Mbappé will be just fine. He’s in that sweet spot, only 23 and at the peak of his athletic powers, with a real level head on his shoulders.

I liked seeing the Brazilians dancing, I liked seeing Mbappé and his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Hakimi chatting immediately before and after the game. The pressure is so intense around a normal World Cup and life as an elite footballer is so exacting, that a little outpouring of joy is what everyone needs.

Mbappé was a little off in the quarters against England and until the last 20 minutes against Morocco. Then he flicked a switch, turning the Moroccans and Hakimi inside out, to nail down France’s 2-0 win.

It puts him in the “Pelé at World Cups” conversation.

The game has never had this sort of World Cup final – a generational passing of the torch, if you will, from Messi to Mbappé with Argentina in with a real chance to deny France back-to-back world titles.

Griezmann deserves all the plaudits that come his way. It’s his work-rate around Mbappé that has been so impressive these past three weeks and how he sparks the attack when it is needed.

I think France will win. Once Brazil were put out by Croatia they became the most well rounded, talented bunch. But they will be up against it off the pitch. Argentinian and Moroccan fans have lifted our spirits plenty of times, especially when we needed it, so I am grateful for that. How do Moroccans whistle so loudly and for so long?

Whatever happens in Lusail, whether it is Messi’s romantic finish or Mbappé bringing our sport to another level, all I will remember from Qatar is the people who made my life so easy. There were plenty of times when we ordered extra food and drink for the people working outside our TSN studio in the Souq, who arrived before us every day and left after.

We moan about our lives in the UK, Ireland and Canada but it is frightening how the super rich in Qatar are oblivious to the treatment of the people who allow them to have such cushy lives. They have to be oblivious, right?