WHETHER we qualify for the 2018 World Cup or not, it’s certain we’ll play in the 2022 edition, as hosts. So any facelift we plan to give our system should be aimed at grooming a strong team in time for 2022. I’m sure the Qatar Football Association (QFA) and Qatar Stars League (QSL) are aware of this, and will strive hard to unearth new Qatari talents and nurture them.
The QFA realised that, considering the shallow talent pool, a 14-team First Division league is unfeasible and there’s an obvious dilution in quality. Hence, it was decided the top flight should’ve only 12 sides from 2017-18, leaving four facing the relegation trap at the end of this season which starts on Thursday.
I hope the strong ambition of our club managements and fans to see their teams stay in the premier division will inspire the players to give their best, and thus make every match more competitive. Every point won or lost will be very vital in the battle to avoid relegation.
Indeed, it’s going to be a big challenge for bottom clubs, but I’m happy to note that most of them have put together reasonably stronger teams, indicating they aren’t prepared to go down without a fight.
Thus, the new season should be a season of hope — closer battles, more excitement and improved performance from players.
Yes, we can claim there’re better players in our league and it’s one of the best in the region, but what is its real impact on our national team?
We tried different formats in the past and also sought to limit the number of foreign recruits. Yet, we didn’t see the emergence of a Qatari player as the league’s top scorer or best goalkeeper!
All QSL teams have age-group sides (Under-13 to U-19) and there’re separate leagues for them too. But I’m sorry to say there’s no natural progression of many players to the senior squad. In the absence of an U-21 league, many boys drop out after 19 as there’s no platform for them to stay competitive.
Thanks to the ASPIRE Academy, we’ve identified a bunch of talented youngsters, who should form the nucleus of our 2022 World Cup squad. Any format change should be for their development because they’re the future.