Qatar Sporting Highlights
Written by Oryx
Qatar is celebrating in the wake of the announcement that the nation will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup – adding extra excitement to this month’s 2011 AFC Asian Cup tournament. Mark Roach looks ahead to Qatar’s 2011 sports calendar.
December 2, 2010 was a significant date in Qatar’s sporting history. It was the day the country won the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It also means Qatar has automatically qualified to compete in the 2022 World Cup, along with such international footballing giants as Brazil, Argentina, Spain, England, and Germany, and the world’s greatest players.
With the football (soccer)-loving nation still celebrating the news that it will stage one of the world’s biggest sporting events, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup – taking place in Qatar from January 7 to 29 – has been eagerly anticipated.
It is the fifteenth time the AFC Asian Cup tournament has been held, and the second time Qatar has hosted the event – it was the venue for the 1988 tournament. Qatar will be competing in its eighth AFC Asian Cup, and is one of the top four seeds for the 2011 Asian Cup (along with Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Korea Republic). The country’s team faces Kuwait, China, and Uzbekistan in the group stages, with the top two teams in the group progressing to the quarter-finals.
Football may be the most popular sport in Qatar – with the regular season highlights including the prestigious Sheikh Jassim Cup, Emir Cup, and Heir Apparent Cup – but the nation is renowned for other major sporting events, with the world’s top tennis and golf stars descending on the state during January and February.
The world’s two top tennis players, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, are in town this month for the ATP Qatar ExxonMobil Open (January 4-9), with world number six Nikolay Davydenko returning to defend his 2010 title. The following month, Robert Karlsson will be defending his crown at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club (February 3-6), an event that regularly attracts one of the strongest fields of players on the European Tour.
The world’s top women tennis players return for the WTA Qatar Total Open on February 21 after a two-year absence, with Qatar having hosted the WTA Tour Championship, and celebrated the event’s tenth anniversary this year. Martina Hingis, Monica Seles, and Justine Henin are former winners, with two-times champion Maria Sharapova the last winner of the event in 2008.
Also in February the Tour of Qatar cycling marathon gears up for a gruelling 704km, six-stage race, starting at West Bay Lagoon, and ending with a 123.5km, seven-lap race at the Corniche. Sixteen star teams from across Europe, including Liquigas, Team Sky, Team Saxo Bank, and Cervélo Test Team will be fielding a great line-up.
For more two-wheeled action, Doha’s Losail International Circuit hosts the MotoGP, one of the most popular events on the Qatar sports calendar, from April 9 to 11. Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner have dominated the event over the past six years, with Rossi, the reigning champion, winning three times, and Stoner claiming victory on the other three occasions.
Horsepower of another kind sees a variety of equestrian sports throughout the year, with October 13 welcoming the most unusual Horse Games/Horse Sports, which includes the 16th-century sport of djerid, abolished over 150 years ago, to be played for the first time in the Middle East since then. An accompanying exhibition will also feature equestrian events such as qabaq (mounted archers), the precision event of fantasia, and the spectacular Central Asian sport of buzkashi.
The year is set to finish on a high with the 12th Pan Arab Games (from December 1), the first time the quadrennial multi-sport event is being held in a Gulf state, bringing together competitors ranging from Algeria to Yemen at the Khalifa Stadium.
Aquatic sports are hosted throughout the year, with the Corniche home to a number of sailing events, while one of the fastest water sports series in the world, the UIM F1 Grand Prix for powerboats and H1 Unlimited series, kicks up a huge spray and even greater crowds.
And with major fencing, diving, and beach volleyball, as well as camel racing, show jumping, and other equestrian events being hosted in Qatar, 2011 is set to be a sporting bonanza for the FIFA 2022 World Cup nation.