Ten Days Remain Until the 50th Amir Cup Final
Organised by the Qatar Football Association, Qatar’s biggest and most popular football tournament is heading into the final matches of the 2021/2022 season; the semi-finals on March 14th and the final on March 18th. This year's winners will be making history as they hold the victor's trophy aloft on the evening of the 18th; they will mark the fiftieth year that the tournament has been running. Only four teams remain from sixteen, Al Sadd, Al Duhail, Al Gharafa and Al Wakrah, and the battle to take the title on such a memorable occasion will be fierce. So, who will be crowned this year's Cup holders?
The Amir Cup
The Amir Cup was first played in 1972 and is Qatar’s premier football competition. The tournament is an annual event, played in a knockout format and featuring domestic teams from the country’s first division and top teams from the second division.
This year, sixteen teams began the race for the Cup. Divided into two groups of eight, the teams played an initial knockout round - the four winners from each group went on to play in the quarter-finals. The two winners from each quarter-final group will progress to the semis on the 14th. Al Gharafa is due to play Al Wakrah at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al Sadd at 5 pm, and Al Sadd is to play Al Duhail at the same venue at 7:45 pm. The victors of each match will face one another at the final on the evening of the 18th at World Cup venue, Khalifa International Stadium.
In the 50 years that the Amir Cup has been operating, only eight clubs have lifted the trophy and claimed the Cup title. Of the four finalists at the 2022 tournament, only three are previous Cup winners, Al Sadd, Al Duhail and Al Gharafa. Of the group, Al Wakrah could be seen as the underdog, but the team has been on ever-improving form over the last few years and could instead be the dark horse of the race. So, who stands the most chance of being victorious this March…
Al Sadd SC is the Emir Cup's most successful team in history; they have lifted the Cup eighteen times since the inaugural match in '76. The team are the Cup's current defending champions, having won the tournament in 2021 and 2020. Al Sadd is also the defending champion of the country's premier league division competition, the Qatar Stars League, having won the 2020/21 trophy. They are predicted to win this year's QSL title, standing ten points clear at the top of the table with only two matches to go. At the Emir Cup this March, Al Sadd will need to beat rivals Al Duhail to reach the final.
In recent years, Al Duhail SC picked up the Emir Cup trophy on three occasions (2016, 2018 and 2019). In 2016 and 2019, the club pipped Al Sadd to the post for the honour. They have also triumphed over Al Sadd, their closest rival, in the Qatar Stars League on six occasions to Al Sadd's four in the last 9-10 years. Therefore, the two teams' Emir Cup head-to-head on the 14th will be one to watch as each fight for their place in the final. Whoever wins will face either Al Gahrafa or Al Wakrah.
Al Gharafa SC has won the Emir Cup on seven occasions. However, the majority of their titles were won during a winning streak in the 1990s and early 2000s. The last time the club were victorious at the tournament was ten years ago, in 2012. Similarly, the club's string of QSL wins were also during the 90s and 00s. The team currently sits in fifth place in the 2021/22 league, with only one match left. Up against Al Wakrah at the Emir Cup semis, a team whose form is on the rise, they will have to dig deep to stay in the running for the final.
Al Wakrah SC has never won an Emir Cup and, until relatively recently, have been playing in the country's second division league, having dropped out of the premier division some time ago. However, the team won the league in 2018/19 and has continued to rise up the ranks in the first division ever since. They are currently in third place on the winners' board and look likely to win a qualification spot at the upcoming Asia AFC Champions League. In 2020, the squad also made it to the quarter-finals of the Emir Cup, only to be knocked out by Al Sadd on penalties. If the team makes it past this year's quarter-finals, they may not win against Al Sadd or Al Duhail, but they will continue to make their mark on Qatari football and stand a good chance of displacing the competition leaders in the future.
Khalifa International Stadium
Qatar's Khalifa International Stadium is one of Qatar's oldest. Built in 1976 and named after the former Emir, Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, the venue has long been seen as Qatar's national stadium. Home to the national football team, the stadium has hosted many football events over the years, domestic and international, including the Gulf Cup, the AFC Asian Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and the FIFA Arab Cup. However, as a multisport venue, the stadium has also hosted numerous other international events such as the Asian Games (2006), the Pan Arab Games (2011), the World Athletics Championships (2019) and the Doha Diamond League.
Since its inauguration nearly fifty years ago, the stadium has been renovated and extended several times. Most recently, the venue was renovated for the 2022 World Cup. One of eight World Cup venues in Qatar, Khalifa International Stadium was the first 2022 tournament venue to be completed. The newly modernised stadium was inaugurated as a FIFA World Cup stadium at the 2017 Amir Cup Final when Al Sadd beat Al Rayyan 2-1 to lift their 16th tournament Cup.
Khalifa Stadium is not the only 2022 World Cup Stadium to feature an Amir Cup final:
- In 2019, Qatar’s second 2022 tournament venue to be completed, Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, was inaugurated alongside the Cup final. With almost 40,000 fans in attendance, Al Duhail beat Al Sadd 4-1 to take the title and lift the Cup for the third time.
- In 2020, despite the raging battle against Covid-19, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan was Qatar’s fourth stadium to be inaugurated alongside the Cup final that year between Al Sadd and Al Arabi. A restricted crowd of 20,000 was allowed to attend the event, where Al Sadd were again the victors with a 2-1 win over Al Arabi. (Qatar’s third World Cup stadium to reach completion, Education City Stadium, was inaugurated via a digital ceremony due to Covid restrictions.)
In 2021, Al Thumama Stadium became the fifth World Cup stadium to reach completion. The stadium inauguration match, the final of the Emir Cup, was fought between Al Sadd and Al Rayyan. Once again, Al Sadd were victorious, winning on penalties. (Since Al Thumama Stadium's inauguration, the sixth and seventh World Cup stadiums have been completed. Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor and Stadium 974 in Doha were inaugurated alongside matches held as part of the first FIFA Arab Cup. The final stadium to complete Qatar's World Cup venue package, Lusail Stadium, is due this year.)
Tickets are available for the semi-finals and the final of the 2022 Emir Cup. The highly affordable tickets can be purchased via the QFA ticketing portal, tickets.qfa.qa. Tickets for Category 1 seats cost just QR50 and just QR10 for Category 2 seats.
To be eligible to attend the Amir Cup 2022, fans are required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 with an Ehteraz App (Qatar’s Track and Trace system) showing a Green Square. Or, fans must have recovered from Covid-19 at least nine months before March 18th 2022 – with proof provided. Children under the age of five and unvaccinated children are required to be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult and must undergo a rapid Covid-19 test
in a certified medical centre within 24 hours of the match kick-off time. Proof of a negative test result will then need to be shown at the stadium gate on the day.
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