Excellent facilities, but no tiki-taka yet

Excellent facilities, but no tiki-taka yet

Akram Afif (left) and Moez Ali celebrate their 1-0 victory in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Final.Reuters photo

Qatar’s international players live in a golden cage. In their home country, the salary is very good – from a few hundred thousand for water carriers to between 1 and 2 million euros for the best players. Network.

In Europe they will never earn as much, because they lack quality. As a general rule, Qatari clubs do not cooperate with the departure of their best players. Up to four foreigners are allowed in the Qatar Stars League, so a good Qatari player is worth a lot for them. Big clubs like Al Sadd and Al Duhail are not shy about big transfer fees.

Explains why all Qatari internationals play in their country. “I think it is also difficult for most people to play football in Europe,” says Anwar Diba, who played football and lived in Qatar for a long time. They are not strong enough individually. Players are very artistic, but they grow up very polite, very protective, and they lack a bit of survival instinct. But the senior level of Al Sadd and Al Duhail clubs is not bad, as you know. I think these clubs can compete in the middle tier of the Premier League.

Qataris’ connection to their homeland. Deepa: “They are like South Americans, always feeling homesick in another country. But South American players still wander in search of money. Qatari footballers do not have to do this. They have a luxurious and comfortable life in a beautiful and safe country and play in a fun league. Why are they leaving?

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The pool is small, because the country is small and the Football Association is relatively young. There are about 400 registered professional soccer players.

Some of the internationals played briefly for humble Belgian club KAS Eupen, which was in Qatari hands and was used as a way for players recruited from home and abroad to gain experience and toughness.

It’s all part of a master plan not to make a clay figure at the World Cup. For decades, mainly Spanish coaches have been working in Qatar teaching tiki-taka soccer players. Diba: “They set up the best stadiums and facilities, every European club sends the best youth teams to compete.”

Spain’s national coach Felix Bass was given all the time to build a cohesive team. Its players, some of whom are of African descent, have been out of competition for months to prepare. Deepa: “They played together years ago and are really friends.”

Qatar has never qualified for the World Cup. In the history of the Football Association, which was founded in 1960, winning the Gulf Regional Cup in 1994 was the only highlight. But the team knows the taste of winning very well. In the last Asian Cup in 2019, Al-Anabi was unbearable with seven victories, including in the final match against Japan (3-1). Until that final, not a single goal was conceded.

It says something about defensive strength, especially goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb was on alert, there are five defenders who blindly know what they are doing. Up front, the great Akram Afif, veteran Hassan Al Haidos and goalkeeper Al Moez Ali stole the show. Participation in the Copa América, the South American championship, went lower with three defeats and a draw.

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The biggest goal is to qualify for the knockout stage on the back of Ecuador. Diba does not expect much benefit from the climatic conditions. It’s cold in the stadiums because of the air conditioning. But the weather is fine. If they win the opening match against Ecuador, it will come alive even more.

Qatar

World ranking: 50

Transfer value: 15 million

Most expensive player: Emerson (7 million)

Best World Cup Performance: Debut

Population: 2.7 million

Average income for a resident: 56,000

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