How Qatar Built A World Cup Team From Nothing

By | November 20, 2022

When Qatar won the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in 2010, they ranked 113th in the FIFA World Rankings, below the likes of Haiti and Uzbekistan, and had never previously qualified for the World Cup.

Twelve years on, despite having a tiny population and next to no football heritage, Qatar are powerhouses of the Asian football, having won the 2019 Asian Cup, and now up to 50th in the FIFA World Rankings.

So in this video, HITC Sevens takes a deep dive into how Qatar built a national football team capable of competing in a World Cup out of nothing, their scouting and coaching methods pioneered at the Aspire Academy in Doha, and what to expect of the host nation at this World Cup.


When Qatar won the right toes the 2022 FIFA World Cup 12 years ago much of the World reacted with shock even among the Delegates of the auditorium is Yorick There was an audible gasp when Seth Blatter made the announcement Qatar is By far the smallest country ever to have Been awarded hosting rights in terms of Both land mass and population and they Didn't have a single Stadium capable of Holding a World Cup match let alone the Eight that they had promised to build Solely for that tournament Not only Would Qatar have to build eight brand New football stadiums an enormous amount Of Transport infrastructure and Accommodation for roughly a million Football fans and all of the teams they Would also have to build a football team Fit to compete in a FIFA World Cup cats Are all the first World Cup hosts never To have previously appeared at a finals Since Italy in 1934 of the second ever World Cup and even that was only because Italy had refused to travel all the way To Uruguay in 1930 decades before the First commercial transatlantic flight When they were announced as World Cup Hosts in 2010 Qatar were ranked 113th in The FIFA world rankings below the likes Of Haiti and Uzbekistan to make matters Even worse just five percent of Qatar Squad at the time had actually been born In Qatar and since FIFA were in the

Process of clamping down and tightening Their rules around naturalization and Fast-tracking foreigners International Teams the task on qatar's hands was Immense the scale of improvement that Was required within little more than a Decade was unprecedented in the entire History of international football this Is a country which has just 313 000 citizens which is fewer than Coventry or Wakefield in the United Kingdom and Lexington or Corpus Christi In the United States migrant workers Make up more than 90 percent of qatar's Total population which currently stands At just over 2.9 Million up from just 1.7 million people in 2010. a large Increase which can mostly be attributed To Qatar recruiting an enormous number Of South Asians to either build or staff Projects related to This World Cup so in 2010 Qatar had a terrible national team Full of foreigners a tiny player pull From which to recruit future players a No football Heritage yet just 12 years On Qatar are powerhouses of the Asian Football scene in 2019 they won the Asian cup beating Japan 3-1 in the final Despite never previously having got Beyond the quarter-final stage they have Climbed all the way up to 50th in the FIFA world rankings ahead of the likes Of Ghana and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Of their last 22 fixtures heading into

Their World Cup opener against Ecuador Qatar have lost just two of them so in This video we're going on a journey to Doha to see how this tiny Gulf State Built a football team capable of Competing at the World Cup in the space Of just 12 years except it is a journey That will take us Beyond Qatar alone to Both Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa and back further than 2010 to end This project actually first began this Is the story of how a tiny Gulf State Built a football team totally from Scratch Qatar is a very young country younger in Fact than most of the managers at this World cup Qatar only gained independence In 1971 having been a British Protectorate from 1916 up to that point The relationship between Britain and Qatar and indeed Britain and most of the Region was almost entirely transactional Britain and the United States were Keen For countries in the Persian Gulf to be Ruled by shakes and royal families who They felt as though they could Manipulate and control ensuring a cheap Supply of oil and gas which would Protect both countries economic Interests in exchange for protecting the Shakes themselves from internal Uprisings and external invasions Although these countries like Qatar Saudi Arabia and the United Arab

Emirates are now independent and have Grown extremely rich due to their Natural resources that transactional Relationship hasn't really changed Shakes still maintain retain the status Quo and protect the West's economic Interests and in return the West arms Them up to the eyeballs and continues to Consider them as key Military Allies Because Qatar and their neighbors were Client states of the British Empire Though rather than more traditional Colonies like India Nigeria or much of The Caribbean there was less cultural And sporting integration it was still British Oil Workers who played the first Recorded game of football in Qatar in 1948 supposedly in front of a crowd of Extremely confused locals in 1950 Al-nadja now named alali became the First Qatari football club and by 1951 a League had been established featuring Teams made up of both British and Indian Oil Workers over the next decade Football would take hold as the most Popular sporting Qatar culminating in The founding of the Qatar Football Association in 1960 D which was granted Fee for affiliation in 1963. the Qatar National football team played their First official match in March 1970 18 Months before Qatar declared Independence from Great Britain as they Competed in the first Arabian golf cup

Things didn't get off to a great start For Qatar as they lost their first ever Game 2-1-2 Bahrain and they finished Dead last in the first Arabian Golf Cup Winning just a solitary Point against Saudi Arabia that is largely how things Continued for the next 30 Years Basically with Qatar not being very good With the exception of the 1981 FIFA World youth championship in which Qatar Beat the likes of England and Brazil on Route to the final where they lost four Nil to West Germany during the early 2000s though whilst Hamad bin Khalifa Altani who was previously a sportsman Himself ruled as the Emir of Qatar the Country began to flood money into a Number of sports not just football Qatar Hosted the 2006 Asian games they Established the Qatar Open tennis Championship and they began to recruit a Series of high-profile footballers from Europe and South America if you ever Wonder what Pep Guardiola Marcel Desai Gabrielle batistuta Raul janinio Fernando hieraro Frank lebuff Stefan Effenberg Claudio canigia and both Frank And Ronald Devore among many others all Have in common the answer is that they All played Club football in Qatar and That is before the likes of Wesley Schneider James Rodriguez and Xavi all Did likewise after qatar's winning World Cup bid they all went there due to a

Burning desire to grow the sporting Guitar and absolutely nothing else the 10 million dollars a year that Javi was Reportedly paid whilst he was there was Very much just the icing on the cake More of a jazz of Goodwill than anything Else although Qatar had invested heavily In football becoming a retirement league For former greats isn't always the best Way to grow the domestic game just us China or the United States so Qatar also Pumped an absolute Fortune into a State-of-the-art Academy the Aspire Academy in Doha was built at a reported Cost of 1.4 billion US dollars in 2004 And whilst that does include training And sporting facilities outside of Football it is almost certainly the most Expensive football Academy and Training Center ever built and many people still Consider it to be the best Academy Environment anywhere in the world Aspire Scouts around 5 000 11 year old qataris Each year which by my estimate at least Is a pretty significant percentage of The total number of 11 year olds in Qatar each year even whilst casting such A wide net domestic Play-Doh the talent Pool in Qatar is simply too small Aspire And qatar's government-led program Concluded during the 2000s so Aspire Started sending football scouts abroad Starting in 2005 with a handful of Training camps in sub-Saharan Africa

Before expanding rapidly throughout Africa Latin America and Southeast Asia Between 2007 and 2014 a Spire estimates That they scouted 3.5 million boys from 17 different countries with only an Elite few receiving an invite to Doha And an education paid for by the Qatari State that means that in the space of Just seven years Aspire scouted 10 times As many young boys as the total number Of Qatari citizens that is equivalent to England scouting 625 million boys overseas for the Purposes of bringing them to England in The hope that they might One Day Represent the three line or China Scouting more than 15 billion boys which Would be quite difficult given that that Is around twice the global population Qatar claims that they don't Scout Youngsters in Africa Asia and Latin America in the hope that they will one Day represent them but just to bring Them to Doha and give them a first-class Sporting and academic education Yosef Kolamar the Scout who most famously Brought Lionel Messi to Barcelona before He was poached by qatar's Aspire program Even described its job as being a Humanitarian project even though of the Millions of young boys they got scouted Only a tiny fraction of a percent ever Have their lives changed at all the Qataris do admit that this isn't an

Entirely selfless act claiming that Whilst they don't expect the young boys That they bring to Doha at a very young Age to go on to represent Qatar at International level the fact that native Qataris get to hone their skills down in Day out training and playing both with And against better quality players they Say has been the biggest driver of this Program there is also a more Controversial aspect shall we say to Qatar's Aspire program in terms of the Locations in which they are based there Are two Aspire academies the main 1.4 Billion dollar Hub in Doha and a Satellite Academy located in the Senegalese capital of Dhaka plus the Aspire football dream program which Covers qatar's scouting coaching Training and funding exercises Everywhere else covering four continents Of the globe some of aspire scouting Missions particularly those to rural Areas of countries which have produced Many great footballers over the years But where those based outside of the big Cities and major metropolitan areas can Often slip through the gnats and never Attend a trial or even be watched by a Scout make perfect sense others however Such as is Guatemala in Thailand had Very little history of producing Talented footballers and neither it has Been reported have ever had a single

Player invited to train at the Aspire Academy in Doha what Guatemala and Thailand did both have however in 2010 Were seats on FIFA's executive committee The 24 strong group of Aging men who got To decide who would host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups in fact six out of The 15 programs that Qatar invested Aspire football dreams funding into in The build up to 2010 just so happened to Be based in countries which had members Among FIFA's all-powerful executive Committee it is a freakish coincidence You'd have to say which led to even FIFA's own investigation process to Conclude that aspire's Academy funding Have been used to quote Curry favor with Executive Now I'm not an expert but I think that Curry favor is an awfully nice way of Saying bribery and Corruption Qatar Unsurprisingly denies any wrongdoing Nonetheless the Aspire Academy in Doha Has undoubtedly been an enormous success Every single one of the 26 players in Qatar's 2022 World Cup squad came Through the Aspire Academy system which Is where the senior national team still Trains now qatar's manager Like aspire's Chief Scouts was also poached from Barcelona Felix Sanchez began his career As a youth team coach at Barcelona when He was still only 20 years old and it Was 10 years later in 2006 that Qatar

Came Calling Sanchez was put in charge Of the Aspire Academy a job that he did For seven years playing a vital role in The development of several Key current Qatari Internationals in 2013 he was Appointed as the head coach of qatar's Under 19s followed by both the under-23s And the senior team in 2017. since 2020 Sanchez has solely managed qatar's Senior Team in the build-up to the World Cup it means that for several members of Qatar's 2022 World Cup squad Sanchez has Been coaching them since they were Literally 11 years old and if there was Any chance of Qatar going down the route That South Korea took in 2002 when they Hosted the World Cup of appointing a big Name like Goose heading and it was Reported that Qatar ultimately wanted Javi to do that job then that's Evaporated in 2019 when Sanchez guarded His team to glory in the Asian cup Creating a real feel-good Factor about His Squad throughout Qatar and a sense Of genuine belief around the country and Their prospects at the World Cup after The United United States narrowly beat Qatar in the semi-finals of the 2021 Gold Cup usmnt boss Greg berhalter Described Qatar as being more like a Club side than a national team it's an Interesting observation and it is one That makes perfect sense given that this Is a group of players who in some cases

Have been playing together since they Were children who train together Routinely rather than only coming Together a few weeks a year like most National team squads and who have had Remarkable consistency in terms of their Coaching it is for that reason one would Surely imagine that Qatar have been able To so grossly overachieve in recent Years and have made such enormous Progress over the last six or seven Years alone the Qatar Stars League which Is where every single member of qatar's World Cup squad plays their Club Football still isn't a particularly Strong League no Qatari side has Appeared in the final of the a FC Champions League over the past decade And when Xavi first arrived at al-sad From FC Barcelona in 2015. he really did Look like a professional footballer Playing against a bunch of children or Ranchers but that club environment in Which the national team has been forged Over not just years but decades has Created a close-knit group Which is far Greater than the sum of its parts the Sheer amount of time that they have Spent playing together and under the Same coach has created a supreme Spirit Togetherness and an understanding of one Another's games and a tactical Discipline that whatever their flaws is Likely to be unrivaled at this FIFA

World Cup in keeping with qatar's Likeness to a club side unlike every Other national team they have basically Had an entire pre-season together in Order to prepare for this world cup in Fact they've had more than a single Pre-season the 2022-23 Qatar Stars League season which Only began at the start of August was Suspended on September 14th until after The World Cup giving the Qatar Squad More than two months to prepare for the Tournaments and reducing the likelihood That any of their players would pick up Any injuries since then Qatar have Played eight games and they went on a Tour of Europe over the summer to avoid Their searing Qatari heat that caused This world cup to be postponed spending Much of the past five months in either Austria or Marbella to put the sheer Number of games that Qatar have played In 2022 into some context most European National teams including England have Played eight games so far this year the South Americans like Brazil have played Between seven and nine and the average For the Asian national teams is between 12 and 13. even Senegal who had both World Cup qualifying fixtures this year And the African Cup of Nations in which They made it all the way to the final Played a total of 16 games cats are Meanwhile have played 21 games in 2022

Alone in addition to the six games that They played in the last month of 2 2021 Rather aptly given the comparisons Between Qatar and a club side several of Those games have been against clubs Rather than national teams between June And August of this year Qatar faced six Different European clubs during their Pre-season tours including the likes of Lazio Fiorentina and Royal Antwerp and About a month later they faced a couple Of clubs from Slovakia there is a slight Misconception that the Qatar Squad is Packed full of players who have no Connections at Qatar whatsoever other Than the fact that they were signed by State-owned clubs and have spent a Couple of years there that isn't Actually the case though it is not for The wants of trying before winning the Right house the 2022 World Cup in 2010 When Qatar were bringing the likes of Batistuta Desai and Guardiola to play in The Qatar Stars League the country was Doing everything and all that they Possibly could to strengthen their National team with foreign players in 2004 for example after ailsson won the Bundesliga Golden Boot at Vera Bremen After scoring 34 goals in 43 games in a Single season but still didn't receive An international call-up from Brazil the Qatar Football Association offered him Qatari citizenship an upfront fee of 1

Million euros and a salary of 400 000 Euros a year whilst he was there in Order them to represent their national Team Qatari citizenship it should be Said is among the most difficult to Obtain of any country on Earth typically It can only be passed down paternally so Even having a Qatari mother might not Gain you citizenship and for those born Outside of Qatar you have to have lived There for at least 25 years speak fluent Arabic and be willing to give up any Other citizenship that you already hold In order to just be considered the Emir However is able to award citizenship to Someone by Royal Decree even if they Don't meet any of the aforementioned Criteria and it seemed as though that Loophole was to be exploited to suit Qatar's football Ambitions in the same Week that the Qatari fa made a lucrative Offer to aylesson they also approached Fellow uncap Brazilians Daddy and Leandro who were both the barossia Dormant at the time with very similar Deals so audacious work guitars Approaches to those three players at Exactly the same time that FIFA Intervenes to block them from accepting The Qatar fa's contract offers and to Tighten naturalization rules for International footballers worldwide After Qatar reached the final of the 2015 World men's handball Championship

Which the country hosted with an almost Entirely foreign team that had no Connections to the country at all set Blatter stated that he wouldn't allow For the same thing to happen in football Describing it as an absurdity you can Always count on sap to protect the Integrity of the game and to prevent Anything absurd from happening at International Football good old sap Whatever happened to him anyway never Mind I hope he's doing well Qatar didn't Abandon their strategy of naturalization Uruguayan Striker Sebastian Soria for Example who arrived in Qatar in 2005 and Began representing the national team in 2007 is still qatar's third highest Appearance holder and fourth highest Goal scorer of all time and he is still Playing in Qatar now age 39 but clearly They couldn't afford to put all of their Eggs in that basket hence why more Attention and indeed more funding was Diverted towards the Aspire program There are 10 foreign born players in Qatar's 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup who hail from eight different Countries namely Algeria Portugal France Iraq Sudan Bahrain Ghana and Egypt it is Not unusual in the modern game for National teams to have foreign-born Players 28 out of the 32 countries at This world cup have at least one Including England in the form of

Kingston native Raheem Sterling a Morocco Tunisia in Senegal all have more Foreign-born players than Qatar the Difference between those foreign born Players and the early foreign-born Guitar players is that they were caused By external influences outside of Football whether that be economic Migration Colonial legacies or Refugee Crises the reason why there are so many French-born players in the Morocco Tunisia and Senegal squads is because Morocco Tunisia and Senegal are former French colonies which still have lots of Migrations of France the reason why Switzerland's captain and Vice Captain Are both ethnic kosovar albanians is Because many kosovar albanians including Granite Jacques and GERD and shakiri's Families fled to Switzerland as Asylum Seekers during the Yugoslav wars and Even something that seems like an odd Quirk of International Football such as Mati cash representing Poland is easy to Explain when one considers that there Are over 700 000 native poles currently Living in the United Kingdom in the case Of Qatar though the migration and Eligibility of their foreign-born Players initially at least was wholly Manufactured by qatar's fa the Aspire Program and government resettlements and Citizenship programs solely for football Purposes that is no longer the case or

Not entirely at least the vast and Ever-growing number of Migrant workers That have arrived in Qatar over the past Couple of decades have played a Significant role in broadening qatar's Player pull and only three members of Qatar's 2022 World Cup squad have no Connection to the country other than That they have been playing football There for a while someone like Elmo as Ali Qatar Starman and all-time joint Record goalscorer was born in Sudan but His mother who is also Sudanese moved to Qatar whilst he was still a child not Dissimilar to Raheem Sterling's mother Relocating from Jamaica to London when He was five years old so qatar's Approach has been multifaceted and Consequently their national team is now A combination of qatari's citizens the Descendants of Migrant workers a Naturalized foreign-born players in Terms of what to expect from Qatar at This world cup the fact that it is their World Cup debut makes them arguably the Toughest team to weigh up and make any Predictions about what we can say for Sure is that no team has ever been Better prepared for any World Cup in Terms of their pre-tournament Arrangements and we can also be fairly Certain that they will play a 352 Formation in possession and a 5-3-2 when They haven't got the ball which are

Felix Sanchez's preferred systems Qatar Are well disciplined they take good care Of the ball in possession and then Akram Afaith and Alma as Ali they have two Players who are capable of opening the Opposition up and finding the back of The net the difficulty for Qatar will be Defensively particularly from set pieces I think where they have a distinct lack Of physicality and height and Portuguese Right back roro who was signed by al-ali In 2011 and became a Qatari Citizen and International in 2016 will be so Important in that regard strong athletic And six foot two inches tall getting the Balance right between defense and attack Will be another challenge from what I've Seen of Qatar I don't think that they Are strong enough defensively to just Sit deep and offer their only threat on The counter-attack but nor are they Talented enough to dominate a game over A full 90 minutes against top quality Opposition striking the right balance There will be crucial but Qatar will be Buoyed by the fact that they have the Easiest group at the tournament the Talisman of their group a Rivals Senegal Namely sadio Mane is going to be forced To miss the tournament and they will Have their own fans firmly behind them And we all know how key Home Advantage Has been at almost every previous World Cup one thing that I would say and I'll

End on this is that I see quite a lot of People relishing the prospects of Qatar Getting battered at this world cup or at Least are hoping that will be the case There has been no more staunch critic of Qatar hosting the World Cup than me and I maintain all of those criticisms and Hold them more fervently now than ever Before but I think it's important that That is directed at qatar's Authoritarian dictatorship that is Responsible for the country's mass human Rights violations and not at the Country's footballers who most certainly Are not in much the same way that bakayo Saka isn't at fault for the UK's Rwanda Policy and Conor Cody can have oddly be Held responsible for consecutive UK Governments allowing private water Companies to dump raw sewage into the Nation's rivers and seas nor is Ishmael Muhammad responsible for the thousands Of Migrant workers who have died since Qatar won the right to host this world Cup or Mustafa Michelle in any way Culpable for women in Qatar who reports Having been sexually assaulted sometimes Being jailed themselves for up to seven Years on account of having sex outside Of marriage by a cruel and barbaric Legal system if the judge doesn't Believe them so personally I won't be Hoping that Qatar get battered at this World cup nor will I be hoping that they

Win I will be treating them with the Same strict impartiality that I reserve For every national team other than England and my beloved reggae boys There's another video to be made here About the legacy of this World Cup if Indeed there is one and the future of Qatar's national team and football scene In Jan General following the World Cup Along with all of the foreign investment That Qatar has made in football along With their ownership of the likes of UPenn cultural leonessa most recently Braga and most notably PSG which is all Part of how they have developed this Current national team and current Squad As well but this video is already a long One I'm sure that you're all sick to Your back teeth of My Voice by now so I Will leave this one at that thank you All very much as ever for watching hit The like button if you did enjoy today's Video I hope that that was the case let Me know your thoughts Down Below in the Comments and make sure that you're Subscribed and have notifications turned On for hitc sense you can also find me On Instagram or Twitter or both via Username at hrtc sevens on both assuming That Switzer is still functioning by the Time that this video comes out