For a young member of the FIFA fraternity, Qatar has realised significant football achievements in a very short period of time. The football-loving country’s biggest achievement is winning the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup following a historic FIFA vote in 2010.
The Qatar Football Association (QFA) was established in 1960
Football in Qatar was first introduced in the late 1940s and developed rapidly in the 1950s with Doha Stadium becoming the first proper football venue in the Gulf region. In 1973, the historic Doha Stadium hosted the legendary Mohamed Ali and Brazilian World Cup hero Pele as the two regaled fans with their world-famous sporting skills.
Fast forward to the 70s and the 80s, Qatar quickly established itself as a growing centre for football activities. In the 70s, Qatar built the Khalifa International Stadium – which would in time become the country’s iconic sports venue hosting some of the most popular football matches and tournaments. Last year, the same venue completed massive renovations in record time and was used for an Emir Cup final some five years before the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It will host matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar.
On the pitch, Qatar continued to build youth and senior football outfits in the 70s and into the 80s. In 1981, Qatar scored impressive results at the international level with the national youth side reaching the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship final in Australia. A young and inexperienced Qatar produced memorable performances to beat football powerhouses Brazil 3-2 in the quarter-finals and then England 2-1 in the semifinals before losing the final to West Germany. Badr Bilal scored a stunning scissor strike that led the team to victory over England in the semifinals. Bilal terms the goal as “the greatest moment of his career.”
QFA became a member of FIFA in 1963
After finishing as the runners-up at the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship, Qatar kept on investing in its youth football. In 1984, Qatar featured in the football competition of the Summer Olympic Games held in Los Angeles. In 1988, Qatar hosted the AFC Asian Cup and again in 2011. The AFC Asian Cup remains the continent’s biggest event for national teams and Qatar impressed as hosts, creating a festival of football on both occasions.
Playing its role to promote and develop football in the region, Qatar hosted the hugely popular Gulf Cup tournament three times – in 1976, 1992 and in 2004. Qatar ended up winning the tournament in 1992 and 2004 when it hosted the region’s biggest national team event. Qatar beat hosts Saudi Arabia in 2014 Arabian Gulf Cup final to claim the trophy for the third time.
In 1995, the FIFA World Youth Championship, the 10th edition of the football tournament, was held in Doha from 13 April to 28 April. The tournament took place in three venues. The tournament was originally going to be held in Nigeria who withdrew from hosting duties due to a meningitis outbreak. FIFA asked Qatar to host the event and QFA gladly brought the event to the region for the first time. Argentina went on to win the event.
QFA became a member of AFC in 1967
When Doha hosted the 2006 Asian Games, hosts Qatar won the football gold medal with a 2-0 victory over Iraq in the final as a young Qatar side impressed with aggressive tactics in front of packed houses right throughout the competition. Most of the players from the gold medal-winning team went on to serve the senior team for a number of years.
In October 2014, Qatar juniors beat North Korea in the final of the AFF U-19 Championships held in Myanmar. The gutsy win helped Qatar to qualify for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup held in June 2015 in New Zealand. Most of the young players from that side are currently part of the national senior team as well as the side that finished in third place in the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship held in China earlier this year.