November 17, 2020

Unravelling Qatar’s Football History at the World Cup 2022 Lecture Series

Prior to Qatar's momentous win of the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosting rights (the first Middle Eastern country to do so), most people would have been unaware of the nation as a football-loving state. And, many people are still in the dark about how far back Qatar's history with the game extends. Admittedly, compared to somewhere like the United Kingdom where modern-day football was born or to European and South American countries where football has been a profound obsession for well over a hundred years, Qatar is a relative newcomer to the great game. However, from its humble beginnings as a kick around sport for expatriates in the 1950s, football has grown and developed rapidly into the country's foremost sporting preoccupation. Indeed, with a thriving domestic football scene, national, regional and continental titles under the belts of both its local and national teams and having secured the hosting rights to the 2022 tournament, football in Qatar has come a considerable way in a very short time. 

A recent lecture discussing Qatar's football heritage and history, and hosted by Georgetown University Qatar, sought to address the common misconception that the country's game only began after the 2010 World Cup bid win. The talk gave participants an insight into the nation's long-held sporting passion, but also took a look at how the World Cup is shaping Qatar now and into the future. 

Qatar's Football Journey

Organised as part of the University's World Cup 2022 Lecture Series, the talk addressed Qatar's football history through the eye's, and the published book, of Dr Matthias Krug - a Doha born and raised resident, international journalist and author. Krug, using his book, Journey's on a Football Carpet*, talked the online audience through some of the most significant footballing events that have shaped Qatar's road to 2022. 

From the establishment of the first Qatari football club, Al Ahli, in 1950, the Qatar Football Association in 1960 and the first football league in 1963, through to the 2019 Asian Cup-winning national team, Krug outlined how quickly football and its development have taken place in Qatar. From the construction of the country's first stadium in the 1950s to the eight state-of-art, awe-inspiring edifices built for 2022, and from the games played at the stadiums, the players to take to the field (including the one and only Pelé), and the matches and tournaments hosted in Doha, Krug also demonstrated the country's success in rapidly developing their sports capacity. And, with a discussion about the vision and hard work of the government, players, coaches, women sportspersons, the football association, clubs and other football development groups and organisations (such as Aspire), he also revealed how Qatar's people have carried the country's passion for the game all the way to the World Cup. With touching stories from Qatar footballers who played the game with rolled-up socks in their youth to his father, a coach in Qatar, who used his own money to support his teams progress, Krug gave the audience an intimate insight into Qatari football. In total, the lecture managed to showcase and shine a light on Qatar's seventy years of football history that, for many, remains a mystery. 

The lecture also delved into the impact the World Cup 2022 in Qatar the legacy it will leave behind. Dr Krug and Dr Rieche discussed the tournament's role in improving worker's welfare, which has seen several reforms to workers standards and labour laws that pave the way for improvements not just in Qatar but across the whole region. They also discussed Qatar's World Cup social development programme, Generation Amazing and how it is working to improve the lives, health and prospects of its citizens and those of many developing nations around the world. And, the pair also talked about the country's efforts to use their time as hosts to change the world's perception of the Middle East, to continue to develop the nation inline with their national vision (including positioning the country as a world-class sports hub), and to develop the tournament as a shining example of how future World Cups could be organised (i.e. carbon neutral, fit-for-purpose, etc.).

As Dr Krug pointed out, there has never been a more important time to talk about Qatar's football history and passion, and its role in the future of sport around the world.

*Dr Krug's book is available to buy throughout Qatar and internationally via Amazon.

The World Cup 2022 Lecture Series

The World Cup 2022 Lecture Series is being undertaken as part of a broader research project by Georgetown University's Centre for International and Regional Studies. The project, Building a Legacy: Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022, which includes the lecture series, a blog and a podcast, is tasked with exploring the impact of hosting the 2022 tournament. Specifically, it sets out to question the effect of the competition on the social, political and economic development of Qatar, as well as on regional and global affairs. The lectures themselves are designed to provide a free platform for community engagement.

Headed by Dr Danyel Reiche of Georgetown University and working in partnership with Qatar Foundation (a not for profit organisation initiated to develop education, science and research, and cultural development in Qatar), the project kicked-off in early October with a talk from award-winning British football author and journalist David Goldblatt. The emphasis of the first lecture was on the history of the World Cup and Qatar's place and significance within that narrative.

For more information on the CIRS project, up and coming lectures, and to register, visit Georgetown University's Virtual Hub for Global Dialogue page on their website.

To delve deeper into Qatar’s football history, read our 70 Years of Football Fever article.

To read about Qatar's World Cup legacy, read our Legacy articles on the Achieving 2022 pages of the website.

Published: November 17, 2020
Last updated: November 17, 2020
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