Qatar and football didn’t really go hand in hand for most people until recently, which isn’t really surprising. The game was only brought to the Arab nation in the late 1940s, when foreign workers arrived to seek their fortune in the oil-fields there. There were attempts at setting up a governing body to oversee competitions but it wasn’t until 1960 that the F.A. was founded formally. A league came into being soon after, but the Qatari F.A. only became affiliated to FIFA in the early 1970s, almost ten years after the first Qatari national league was set up. So after a decade of league seasons, the first official league season didn’t kick-off until 1973.
Since then, Qatar's involvement in international football has been somewhat controversial at times. Firstly, the liberal use of naturalisation rules has led many foreign born players being fast-tracked to full citizenship in order to play for the national team. While this is not isolated to Qatar, it is more glaring in this instance due to the strict conditions for citizenship that are flouted, in comparison to a “normal” foreigner who lives in Qatar. Also, in other countries, such as Ireland, it is the “grand-parent rule” that is usually taken advantage of the get a foreign born player on the books. In Qatar, little or none of these players had a connection to the country before moving to play club football there. It should be noted, that the wider Gulf region is experiencing a similar development.
The major controversy however, is the awarding of the 2020 World Cup to the country. There has been numerous accusations of corruption in the awarding process. In simple terms, it would seem that Qatar is not suited to hosting such a tournament due to political, climatic, environmental, human rights and social justice reasons (it would be easy to add in their lack of international football pedigree, but I personally don’t think that is an issue in hosting a good World Cup). On the other hand, they have an awful lot of money. FIFA seem to like money. FIFA have awarded Qatar the tournament. Not exactly difficult to see why the conspiracy theories took hold.
Qatar’s only success to date comes in the form of Gulf Cup wins in 1992 and 2004; and they took gold as hosts at the 2006 Asian Games. The 1980s were something of a golden period for the team, setting and equaling their ‘biggest win’ records of 8-0 against Afghanistan and Lebanon respectively. The u-20 team famously reached the 1981 Youth World Cup final against Germany, having taken care of Brazil and England en route. Three years later Qatar qualified for their debut Olympics appearance.
To the shirt then. It is made by Swiss company ‘Burrda’, who have made some recent moves in boosting their profile in football and rugby across Europe. In the past, they have also supplied Belgium with their kit. This shirt features a nifty pin-stripe styling, as well as a nice ‘old-school’ floppy collar. While the Burrda logo is a bit strange, there is no denying that the Qatar FA’s crest is one of the best around. It makes great use of the national flag, with some very impressive looking Arabic writing. Not being an Arabic speaker, I’ve tried to research what it says but have failed apart from an unconfirmed suggestion that it simple says “Qatar Football Association”. If anyone can help, please feel free to contact me. In the centre, is a rather snazzy football design that you can see in the pictures below. All in all, in an age where many FAs are getting in graphic designers to butcher traditional crests and logos, there is something strangely reassuring about Qatar’s.
As a point of interest, I will add a very small piece of Qatari history here that I was not aware of until putting together this post. In 1995, the then the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, went on a little trip to Switzerland. He left his son, Crown Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, in charge of running the place while he was away. The only fly in the ointment was that the Crown Prince was ready to oust his father in a coup, and he struck during his father’s absence and claimed the throne with the support of the majority of the rest of the family. Snr claimed at the time that he would return and claim it back, but when other nations, including the USA, began to recognise the new Emir as the legitimate ruler, the game was up. He has since returned, but I imagine Sunday dinner remains awkward.