It’s been an incredible year for the Qatar national team, having won the Asian Cup for the first time. The big names from the side will be in action again soon as the Qatar Stars League is back on August 22. The league is constantly improving and tickets for games are plentiful, cheap and family-friendly. Time Out Doha gives you the lowdown on the teams and players to watch this season.
Qatar has long attracted a number of famous footballers to play here. The likes of Romario, Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Batistuta, Wesley Snjeider, Frank De Boer and his brother Ronald have all called Qatar home for brief spells in the past and there are more this season.
Teams to watch
Al Sadd are historically Qatar’s most famous and successful club, with 14 league titles, and having been twice-crowned champions of Asia. Despite their last title win in 2013, they were in fine form again last season, scoring an incredible 100 goals in 22 games and losing only once on their way to the league title. They were closely followed by Al Duhail, a team also renowned for their attacking play (and they were champions in 2017/18). The two teams have a great rivalry and Al Duhail will be aiming for the top spot again this season. Sadly, legendary Spanish midfielder Xavi has retired from playing but he will now take on his new role as the head coach of Al Sadd. He will be coming up against Duhail’s Portuguese manager Rui Faria, who was Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid. The two big teams will go head-to-head in the Asian Champions League in early August.
Plucky underdogs Al Sailiya had a phenomenal season last time out with the highest finish in their history but will find it tough with the rest of the chasing pack wanting to improve on last season, particularly the likes of Al Gharaffa and Al Arabi, who will be trying to chase an Asian Champions League spot.
Players to watch
Al Sadd boasts the most players from the successful Qatari national team including goalkeeper Saad, defenders Bualem Khoukhi, Tareq Salman, Abdulkarim Hassan, Asia’s best player in 2018, Salem Al Hajri, in the middle, and Hassan Al Haydous in attack.
Al Sadd’s Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah scored a whopping 39 goals last year but he will face stiff competition this time from veteran Morrocan Youssef Al Arabi of Al Duhail. His compatriot Mehdi Benatia was signed from Juventus last year and his new Al Duhail teammate, Japanese international Shoya Nakajima, was signed for a whopping $35 million (QR127,435,000) in February.
Qatar Sports Club still have Barcelona and Inter Milan superstar Samuel Eto’o on their books. He’ll be hoping for a better season this time around.
Al Ahli, the oldest club in the QSL, boast World Cup finalist and ex-Ajax, Man City and AC Milan midfielder Nigel De Jong.
With the World Cup on the horizon, many of the teams will be moving into new stadiums. Al Rayyan’s Ali Bin Ali stadium has a capacity of almost 45,000. The recent Emir’s Cup final was played at Al Wakrah’s stunning new stadium, and Qatar Sports Club stadium has a special charm to it, surrounded by the skyscrapers of West Bay.
Tickets can be bought on the door for most games but you can also book in advance on the QSL website. For a little extra, at some of the stadiums you can also purchase a VIP ticket which entitles you to great seats and some snacks. Most of the stadiums have a food court open before and after the games. Al Duhail’s night market last year was full of fun for the entire family. So, if you’re looking for something different to do this month, why not cheer on your favourite QSL team?
For timings and ticket purchases, visit qsl.qa/en.