Football first came to the country in the late 1940s, with rapid development starting early the following decade, when Doha Stadium became the first arena with a grass pitch in the Gulf region. The stadium officially opened in 1962, but competitive amateur games were taking place at the site from the early 1950s.
By 1973, this historic stadium near the iconic Corniche had hosted both legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and FIFA World Cup™ star Pelé, who played with the famous Santos team and wowed the Doha crowds with his skills. It is said that the Brazilian striker picked up his first career yellow card during this match, but the story remains unconfirmed to this day.
By the end of the 1970s, Qatar had built a new home for its national team in the form of Khalifa International Stadium. Many top international competitions and football matches would be held here, lending to its pedigree as a top FIFA World Cup™ host venue.
By 1981, Qatar had surprised the world with a stunning run to the final match of the Under-20 FIFA World Cup™ in Australia, defeating both Brazil (3-2) and England (2-1) along the way. The scorer of Qatar's winner in the semi-final, Badr Bilal, remembers the moment he scored the spectacular bicycle kick to defeat England as "undoubtedly the greatest moment of my career".
But Qatar's football rapid development did not stop there. By 1984 they had qualified for their first Olympic Games, drawing 2-2 with France in their opening game of the Los Angeles competition before bowing out in the group stages.
In 1988, Qatar hosted the AFC Asian Cup for the first time, and four years later the national team were making headlines in Spain. Led by legendary Brazilian coach Evaristo de Macedo, Qatar reached the quarter-finals of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics football tournament, losing only to eventual finalists Poland in a closely contested 2-0 defeat at Barcelona's magnificent Camp Nou stadium.
Later the same year, formidable striker Mubarak Mustafa spurred Qatar on to their first triumph in the Gulf Cup – on home soil in Doha – to the delight of the country's football fans.
Three years later, Qatar once again hosted the best young players in the world, for the 1995 FIFA Under-20 World Cup™ in Doha, where Argentina and Brazil battled it out in the final in front of 65,000 fans.
At the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar won the gold medal in football, defeating Iraq 1-0 in the final. In recent years, Qatar have notched up another Gulf Cup win – following an earlier 2004 triumph – by claiming the title in Saudi Arabia in 2014.
But it was on 10 December 2010 that the path of the nation's sporting history changed forever, as Qatar was confirmed as the host of the FIFA World Cup 2022™.
In 2014, a promising young generation of Qatari football players, many of whom trained at Aspire Academy, won the AFC U-19 Championship.
The prospect of more success – and Qatar challenging the world's best – drives the nation's players and supporters ever forward on the road to 2022.