Xavi’s Al Sadd Take The Qatar Stars League Title...Again
Qatar's highest professional football league, the Qatar Stars League (QSL), recently crowned the 2020/21 season's champions with the league title. The league, also known as the QNB Stars League, has been played in Qatar officially since 1972. The league currently involves twelve first division squads battling it out, home and away, for the country's top spots and to avoid relegation to its second division league, the Qatargas League.
This season's victors, Al Sadd Football Club, held the winners' trophy aloft for the 15th time, extending its league record as the competitions most successful club and putting the team over half a dozen titles in front of its nearest rivals, Al Duhail SC (last season's winners).
The competition was won with four games left to play and Al Sadd thirteen points ahead of second-placed Al Duhail. The winning squad were unbeaten after eighteen matches - winning sixteen of the games played and drawing two. And, with just four matches remaining, Al Sadd will be looking to maintain its record and finish the entire season undefeated.
The team's glorious win, which saw them put away a whopping 69 goals throughout the tournament, has also ensured a place in the AFC's 2021 Asian Champions League competition. The annual contest pits Asia's strongest clubs against one another for the accolade of best continental club.
Al Sadd's manager Xavi, former midfielder for Barcelona, the Spanish national team and Al Sadd FC, will be deservedly delighted with his team's victory. The league win is the first under his supervision. It has also ensured qualification for two of Qatar's up and coming domestic cup competitions, the 2022 Qatar Cup and the next edition of the Sheikh Jassim Super Cup. Indeed, since Xavi took over as manager in 2019, Al Sadd's domestic progress has been unmistakable. He has led his squad to six domestic titles - the 2020 Emir Cup, the 2020 and 2021 Qatar Cup, the 2019 Sheikh Jassim Super Cup, and the 2019/20 Qatari Stars Cup. And, in 2021, the team still has a chance to add the 2020/21 Qatari Stars Cup and the 2021 Emir Cup to its trophy cabinet.
Having earned the league title and won each of Qatar's domestic cup competitions, Xaxi has proved his mettle as manager, and the current squad has defended Al Sadd's position as the most successful club in Qatar. Not forgetting that, since the club's inception in 1969, it’s players have won the QSL 15 times, the country's oldest cups, the Emir Cup (f. 1972) and the Sheikh Jassim Super Cup (f. 1977), on 17 and 15 occasions, respectively, and the newest competitions, the Qatar Cup (f. 1994), 8 times, and the Qatari Stars Cup (f. 2009), a total of 3 times.
But who are Al Sadd FC?
Al Sadd Football Club
Al Sadd Football Club was first formed over 50 years ago by four students and quickly grew to be one of the Qatari nation's favourite and most successful clubs. The team won its first Qatar Stars League title in 1973/74 and has been victorious a further fourteen times since. In fact, the club has won a total of 58 official football championships to date, a national record. They are also the only Qatari football team to have won the AFC's Asian Champions League (1988–89 and 2011). The 1989 win, when the cup was known as the Asian Club Championship, was a first for any Arab team. The 2011 win also earned the team a spot in the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup, which they played into the semi-finals finishing 3rd place. No doubt a position the team hopes to better at the 2021 edition of the competition. Domestically, Al Sadd was also the first Qatari team to win the league and all three home cups in a single season in 2007. The club also achieved the highest winning streak of ten unbeaten league games in a row in the same year.
The current squad boasts the Qatar Stars Leagues most prolific goal scorer on its team sheet, Algerian Baghdad Bounedjah (39 goals in 2018/19). In the team's recent league run, Bounedjah was the top scorer across the whole event with 20 goals. Alongside Qatari team captain Hassan Al Haydos, who boasts 115 goals to his name, Bounedjah is also one of the clubs most productive strikers with an impressive 160 goals on his record. Haydos is the team's most capped player (401 caps), alongside 2018 Asian Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan (284) and Saad Al Sheeb (274). The team is also home to one of Qatar's most promising talents, Akram Afif, the first Qatari-born player to sign for the La Liga division and 2019 AFC Player of the Year.
While Al Sadd's homegrown talent continues to bloom, the club has also attracted several international players over the years. The club has been fortunate enough to call two of Spain's most important players members of its team. Raúl, former Real Madrid and Spanish national player, considered one of the best strikers in the world and one of Spain's most talented football stars, also made 39 appearances for Al Sadd between 2012 and 2014 - winning the league and the Emir Cup during his tenure. Xavi, another of Spain and Barcelona's best and one of the finest midfielders of all time, also played for Al Sadd for four years in the latter half of the last decade before becoming the team's manager in 2019. During his time at Al Sadd, he helped the team win the 2018/19 league and the 2017 Qatar Cup, Super Cup and Emir Cup. The team has also been home to South American talents Felipe Jorge, Emerson and Leandro from Brazil, Argentinian Mauro Zárate, and Ecuadorian Carlos Tenorio and numerous internationals from the Middle East and African regions.
The squad's ranks today include players from Algeria (Bounedjah), Bahrain (Ahmed Sayyar), Brazil (Guilemere), Spain (Santi Cazorla) and South Korea (Jung Woo-young and Nam Tae-hee), as well as some naturalised players from Africa, Brazil and the Middle East who also play for the Qatari national team.
Al Sadd possesses a proportionally high number of players who play for the current Qatar National team. For the national team's recent victory at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Final, Haydos, Afif, Hassan and Sheeb, and teammates Boualem Khoukhi, Ró-Ró and Tarek Salman were in the starting lineup against Japan.
All things being equal, those core players, plus numerous other Al Sadd first-team players, are expected to form the nucleus of the team for Qatar's 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign. Indeed, Haydos is the national team's current captain and its most capped player with 135 appearances. Abdelkarim Hassan follows with 92 caps for the team, followed by Boualem Khoukhi with 80. Haydos, Khoukhi, Hassan and Afif are also the team's top goalscorers (along with Al Duhail's Almoez Ali).
The current Qatar national team is regarded as one of the best-assembled in its history. And in 2022, for the first time in history, the Qatari team has a chance to shine on a global stage. The number of stand out Al Sadd players in the national team is undoubtedly a reflection of how successful the club is...
Find out more about Qatar’s domestic football, check out our Domestic Leagues and Cups of Qatar.
To read more on the Qatari National Team and its players, read our articles The Qatari National Football Teams Road to Success and Getting to Know the Al Annabi Boys.
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