Football in Qatar goes back to the 1940s when the earliest oil workers organised matches among themselves.
For decades, tournaments were organised by the Qatar Oil Company, until the formation of the Qatar Football Association (QFA) in 1960, which launched the country’s inaugural league competition in 1963-64.
Qatar made their international debut against Bahrain in 1970 before competing in the inaugural Arabian Gulf Cup that same year. They played in their first FIFA World Cup™ qualifier in 1977 when they defeated Bahrain 2-0.
Their first notable display on the international stage came in 1981 when the U-20 side reached the final of the FIFA World Youth Championship – now known as the FIFA U-20 World Cup – in Australia. They defeated Poland, Brazil and England before losing 4-0 to West Germany in the final.
Football continued to make its mark in subsequent decades. The Maroons reached the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games in 1992, and that same year, won the first of three Arabian Gulf Cup titles. They also claimed the gold medal at the 2006 Asian Games and a West Asian Football Federation Championship title.
However, it was in 2019 that Qatar pulled off their biggest footballing achievement by winning the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates. Qatar’s journey to becoming champions of Asia included victories over 2018 World Cup qualifiers Saudi Arabia, Korea Republic and Japan.
In preparing to be World Cup hosts in 2022, Qatar appeared in the 2019 Copa America in Brazil and the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States as a guest nation. As the host team, Qatar finished third at the FIFA Arab Cup 2021™ – the first pan-Arab tournament to be held under the FIFA umbrella.
Domestically, the 12-team Qatar Stars League (QSL) is the country’s top professional league and has featured top players like Xavi Hernandez, Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder in recent years. Al Sadd are the most successful Qatari club, having twice won the AFC Champions League title, in 1989 and 2011.
Here is a chronology of the team’s and the sport’s journey, as well as how it has positioned itself in the Asian football pyramid:
The Qatar Football Association (QFA) is founded in 1960. It becomes an official FIFA member three years later.
1970 – The national squad loses 2-1 to Bahrain in their first official match in the biannual Gulf Cup.
1972 – The Qatar Football Association (QFA) establishes the Qatar Football League in 1972.
1974 – Qatar wins its first international match, defeating Oman 4-0 in the second group game of the Gulf Cup in 1974. Qatar comes in third place in the six-team event.
1975 – The Maroons compete in the Asian Cup qualifiers but do not advance to the competition.
1977- Qatar defeated Bahrain in their World Cup qualifying debut, but finished third and failed to advance from the group.
1980 – Qatar’s debut participation at the Asia Cup in 1980, was managed by former Barcelona and Brazil winger Evaristo.
1984 – The squad reaches the Gulf Cup final for the first time, but loses 4-3 on penalties to Iraq.
1992 – Qatar qualified for the Summer Olympics, where they defeated Egypt and drew with Colombia. The following year, the squad wins its first Gulf Cup, winning four of its five games.
2019 – Against all odds, Qatar wins the Asian Cup for the first time. Qatar won the championship after defeating South Korea in the quarter-finals and four-time champions Japan in the final. They only allow one goal the whole tournament. The following year, Qatar was selected to compete in the Copa America, where it finished bottom of the group after a 2-2 tie with Paraguay.
2021 – The squad gets invited to compete in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where it advances to the semi-finals before losing 1-0 to hosts USA
2022 – The Arab nation hosted the FIFA World Cup adjudged to be the best in the history of the tournament