"Do Qatar even play football?"
A look into the concealed world of Qatari football
Of course they do, come on you know that famous winger, what’s his name; umm - Abdulaziz Al Sulaiti.
This was the unspoken reply to the most frequently answered question on potentially the most infamous day in the history of FIFA.
It was 2nd December 2010 when Sepp Blatter and his fellow FIFA board made their more than thought-provoking decision to award the 2022 World Cup to the somewhat anonymous sporting country of Qatar.
Unheard of on a footballing scale, the middle-eastern outfit of Qatar lacked no ambition in their pursuit of hosting the 2022 World Cup. Within the bid, the average proposed stadium size equates to 45,000 as opposed to England’s 2018 World Cup that averaged out at 50,000, which (considering the gulf in quality between the two nations on football terms) was a poignant sign of avidity, from the Qatar bidding team.
It was an extremely bold statement from FIFA to select the World Cup bid from the Qatar committee over the ever-evolving footballing country of America. Yet in the final round of the voting process, the front running USA team were snubbed in favour of Qatar, which, bearing in mind the amount of progress made on the grassroots level of football in the USA within the last ten years, was a decision sure to raise a few eyebrows over the accused fraudulent organisation of FIFA. Nevertheless, a bold decision it was from FIFA, and it’s since that day on a chilling morning in December which has instigated the way in which the perception of football has changed in Qatar...
Subject to that day in the December of 2010, Qatar as a country in itself has already taken a few strides into getting their name associated with the epicentre of the footballing globe – the European heavyweights. Five months on from the World Cup-related announcement, northern France outfit Paris Saint-Germain received an unprecedented offer from a few affluent chaps belonging to the Qatari Investment Authority.
A business that originated in 2005, in order to manage the excess oil and natural gas supplies in Qatar, the QIA is a foreign investment-based organisation that currently obtains assets totalising to $60 billion - not bad. The QIA bought 70% stakes in PSG, stating that they planned to develop the club’s current stature and evolve the team into competing on a European scale. Obliging to their plan, PSG are currently contending for top spot in Ligue 1, as well as competing in the UEFA Champions League.
One project and one success for the Qatari team, and it was the pure power of wealth which predominantly contributed to getting them to reach their target; so could the factor of money aid the national team in their pursuit of becoming enough of an adequate side to compete at a World Cup on home turf?
Having never qualified for an international competition ever before, the weight of history is well and truly felt upon the national side as they are poised to compete in their first ever international competition in 2021 (the Confederations cup), followed by their other home games - the World Cup.
Current form suggests that Qatar’s national team is no longer on a proverbial plummet, the team producing their best performance to date at their continental games, reaching the quarter-finals of the 2011 Asian cup, incidentally held in Qatar. And with money as well as faith now being invested in the interest of the national team, questions are now arising regarding whether the 101st best team in the world can get their feet on the ground (on a World Cup scale) and qualify for Rio 2014, the pre-penultimate World Cup until the coveted one on home turf.
If they are to qualify they will need to wriggle their way through the toughly contested Asian group containing: South Korea, Iran, Lebanon and Uzbekistan, from which the top two automatically qualify, with third-place going into a two-legged aggregate match against an opposing Asian country from the other Asian qualifying group.
In the group, Qatar currently lie 4th, with seven points from five games, one point adrift of Uzbekistan at the top. The question is, can the Qatar side of today prove they are good enough to qualify for a World Cup, before the subliminal bye they get on home soil? History is against them, but do Qatar’s squad have the potential to make it on their own?
Ironically, it was only one month before Qatar were rewarded the World Cup on home turf, that the country experienced their most eminent day in their soccer history. It was an extraordinary moment, sure to be viral sensation for years to come. The moment belonged to Qatar striker Khalfan Fahad. It was on that day, that he was awarded the terribly fitting title of ‘the worst miss in the history of football’.
The fact that this is one of Qatar’s most famous moments (on a football pitch) in their footballing history, speaks volumes, regarding the amount of notable achievements that Qatar have produced over the years. With no inspiration to be taken from the nation’s football history, Qatar will need to focus on the future, and build from there.
Scroll across the menu at the top of the Qatar FA homepage, and you find the subheading ‘Vision’. From clicking on the link, you find yourself endorsed within an abundance of desire and ambition, built around the epicentre of a Qatar football team which will play the lead role in making Qatar a ‘pioneering football association, known for creativity and winning’. Phew. Such an emphatic statement, from a country almost foreign to the art of football, instigates you to applaud the incredibly particular and structural vision of the future, obtained by Qatar.
However vision yet has to be met by team performances, and most importantly, results. It may be inferred that given all the Qatar squad belong to the same league, this would fashion some unique presence of squad unity, yet this theory cannot be supported by the team’s poor form. When scanning through the squad which Qatar currently withholds, it’s not exactly one to send boots quaking. With all 25 members of the team currently playing in the virtually unknown ‘Qatar Stars League’, it seems some serious development will have to take place, in order to qualify for Rio 2014.
Two years ago South Africa put on a show that no other World Cup likened to. It had extreme drama, shocks, disappointments, a festival atmosphere; and most importantly – vuvuzelas! The unique nature of the 2010 World Cup confirmed to the globe how diverse the beautiful game is perceived around the world, and proved that a country not known for its footballing prowess can host the most coveted football competition on earth. The 2010 World Cup will somewhat act as a stencil for Qatar; South Africa was much criticised prior to the event, yet produced a great show when the time came.
Speaking of criticism, Qatar aren’t exactly foreign to the word, in fact they’re relatively acquainted with it, if anything. From the minute Sepp Blatter muttered the words ‘Qatar’ on the world stage, damning questions arose towards Qatar and FIFA, about how a country so unsuitable for hosting a football event, was awarded the biggest one on earth. Yet it is the way in which Qatar have handled these condemning outbursts, which shows their maturity in putting modern football heritage ahead of [frowned upon] national traits.
The epicentre of the problems regarding Qatar hosting the World Cup is the weather. A middle-eastern country renowned for its scorching hot weather, it has been queried whether the inevitable hot climate of the county will offer an explicit unfair advantage to some countries such as Qatar, over countries with a much cooler climate, say regular World Cup-goers Sweden.
With the average temperature in the World Cup hosting months of June and July being 41 degrees, the suggestion of a World Cup being hosted in those mentioned months would be utter madness. And the much recommended idea of hosting the competition in the winter months of January and February would cause complete havoc in Europe's top leagues. In response to allegations of Qatar being a poor choice, the country has hit back, outlining plans for stadia that cool the heat being transmitted into the stadium so it is more suitable for playing and spectating, a dear but potentially pivotal idea.
Minus all the negative conjecture associated with Qatar, it is easy to disregard all the unique qualities the nation will offer. Posed to be the smallest country to ever hold the World Cup, Qatar will deal with big, bold buildings, in order to accommodate all that are visiting. Plus, with Qatar being the richest country in the world, with the average income (per year) per capita being approximately £55,000, there is no shortage of money to spend on making this World Cup a memorable one. With the architecture in the making believed to be incredible, it will be exciting to see the end product.
And finally, how can you forget the inevitable and intriguing progression that Qatar national team will make in preparation to their homeland World Cup. It’s sure to be a rocky journey on their way to 2022, but you can bet your bottom Qatar royal (dollar); it’ll be different.
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