Qatar has a long heritage of sport that goes back many hundreds of years. The traditional sports of falconry and more recently camel racing and equestrian sports are favourites among Qataris. Today, the citizens of Qatar have embraced sport, encouraged by state-backed initiatives, such as National Sport Day (see below), and investment in state-of-the-art sports facilities that are being built at a staggering rate.
In 2012 the Father Amir, H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani declared that the second Tuesday of every year would be a holiday dedicated to sports, making Qatar one of only a few nations to do so. National Sport Day is held annually on the second Tuesday in February, with the main objective of promoting a healthy and active lifestyle among citizens.
Football is the most popular game in Qatar, – playing and spectating. On a local level, Qatar has a vibrant football following, with local first and second clubs and associations throughout the country. There are four national teams: the First Team, U-23s, U-19s and U-17s. You can find out more about Qatar’s fanatical love of football at the Qatar Football Association website.
The Amir Cup was first played in 1972 and was won by Al Ahli Football Club. The event is contested every season by 18 Qatar Stars League (QSL) teams and Second Division teams. The most successful team are currently Al Sadd who have won the tournament 13 times, followed by Al Arabi who have won on seven occasions. Al Rayyan are currently the defending champions. In 1999, it was decide to include Second Division sides along with the top tier teams playing for Qatar national league title.
Qatar’s strength in football continues at home and away. In 2014, Qatar won the 22nd Gulf Cup title, beating the Saudi team in the final by two goals to one in a thrilling match.
In 2006, Doha hosted the 15th Asian Games. The event was significant in that Doha was the first city in the GCC and only the second in West Asia to host the games (Tehran hosted the Games in 1974). It also marked the first time all 45 member nations of the Olympic Council of Asia took part, creating a spectacular world event never seen before.
Olympians competed across 46 disciplines in 39 events in sports that included swimming, water polo, sailing, cycling, volleyball, tennis, squash, golf; martial arts such as Judo, Karate, Taekwondo and Wushu; weightlifting, wrestling, gymnastics, handball, basketball and even chess.
The official mascot of the 15th Asian Games was Orry, a Qatari Oryx, a giant statue of which can be seen on the Corniche.
The Games were a huge success not only for Qatar’s sportsmen and women, who ranked 9th on the medal table having won 9 gold, 12 silver and 11 bronze medals, but also for the entire Asian sporting world. The event also put Doha on the map as a competent host city for world sporting events and contributed greatly to Qatar’s winning bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Although this was the eighth Olympics Qatar had competed in, it was the first time women athletes were sent to represent the nation: Nada Arkaji (swimming), Noor Hussain (athletics), Aya Majdi (table tennis) and Bahiya Al-Hamad (shooting). Bahiya Al-Hamad set the nation's historic record as the first Qatari female flag bearer at the opening ceremony. The London Games was Qatar’s most successful Olympics in 12 years, with a total of two Olympic medals.
The 2015 Doha hosted for the first time the 24th World Men’s Handball Championship, the first ever to be held in one city. In another first for the championship and a historic milestone for the sport, a new trophy was conceptualised and designed in Qatar and was handed to the International Handball Federation as a rolling trophy for future championships.
Qatar welcomed all 24 international teams, officials, fans and media to one of the biggest and most spectacular championship the sport has ever seen.
On 2nd December 2010 it was announced that Qatar is to host the 22nd World Cup in 2022. Qatar will be the first Arab country to host the World Cup and it is the first time it will be held in the Middle East region. The tournament will involve 32 national teams, including Qatar’s own national team, and will consist of a total of 64 games.
Since the announcement preparations for the tournament have been going ahead at full speed, with a total of nine new arenas planned, all zero-carbon emitting and climate controlled. After the Cup, some of the arenas will be donated to developing countries as a lasting legacy of Qatar’s achievement in hosting this wonderful world sporting event.
Qatar has much of the spirit of the founding nations of the Olympic movement in that it firmly believes in the ideals of competing to be the best that you can be, to promote fair play, and to bring people together in peace and friendship to play sport.
With boundless enthusiasm and continuing investment in sport, Qatar is keen to become a new home of sportsmanship and a beacon for sport the world over. Supported by the continuous efforts of the Qatar National Olympic Committee and the various sports associations, the nation’s calendar of international top sports events is expanding.