Largest Football Boot Aims for World Record at Qatar World Cup

Largest Football Boot Aims for World Record at Qatar World Cup originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is proving to be a truly global affair, even for countries that won’t be competing on the pitch.

Indian artist and sculptor M Dileef debuted a massive soccer cleat in Doha ahead of the tournament, despite his home country’s absence from the World Cup throughout its nearly century-long history.

The massive sculpture was welcomed by the host country as demonstrated in the reveal ceremony.

The boot — consisting of a combination of materials, including fiber, leather, foam sheet and acrylic sheet — measures 17 feet long, seven feet tall and clocks in at over 1,100 pounds. It is believed to be the largest football shoe in the world — a record that doesn’t currently exist.

Located at the Katara Cultural Village in Doha, the sculpture is bound to attract attention from thousands of fans expected to descend on the Qatari waterfront. In an interview with The Peninsula, Dileef said wants the boot to serve as representation for India at the World Cup.

The second-largest country in the world — home to over 1.3 billion people — is absent from Qatar, continuing a 92-year dry spell for India.

India qualified for the 1950 World Cup in Brazil but later withdrew, with reports ranging from travel expenses, desire to focus on the 1952 Olympic Games and FIFA’s rumored refusal to let their team play barefoot.

Since then, the cricket-obsessed country remains absent from one of the world’s preeminent international sports events.

In many ways Qatar was the ideal location to debut this sculpture and highlight India, according to Dileef who believes that Qatar, by virtue of hosting the World Cup, “embraces all cultural diversity.”

“All the countries are gathering here,” he told The Peninsula. “It is an opportunity that blurs the borders of the countries. The boundaries of nation, race, land and language have disappeared. All the people in the world are standing together here.”

Looking beyond the spirit of the World Cup, the numbers certainly make a case for India’s representation in Qatar.

The small peninsular island is known as a huge draw for foreigners and expats. Nearly a quarter of Qatar’s 3 million people are Indian, the largest of any community — including Qataris.

India was also one of the primary sources of Qatar’s controversial use of migrant workers, along with neighboring Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Over the past decade, these workers were tasked with building the World Cup infrastructure that will be on full display this weekend. However, multiple reports revealed a humanitarian crisis at its core. The Guardian reported over 6,500 deaths due to what has been likened to “modern-day slavery,” leaving many workers and their families injuries, debt-ridden and/or dead.

Despite the controversy and absence of Indian representation on the field, Dileef remains steadfast in his belief in the World Cup’s ability to unite.

“I firmly believe that this World Cup can lead humanity to greater heights,” he said.