QATAR put up a good fight while playing out a 4-4 draw with Oman in their opening Group A match at the Indoor Asia Cup last Monday.
The result was creditable considering hockey is a relatively new sport in Qatar. But the fact that almost all members in the squad were naturalised players takes some sheen off it.
Qatar’s coach and technical director Maggid Abu Taleb admitted that they had to utilise the services of expatriates.
“All these players have been representing Qatar for the past many years,” said Maggid.
The newly-renamed Qatar Rugby, Hockey and Cricket Federation (QRHCF) had made a lot of efforts towards creating a pool of national players after the 2006 Doha Asian Games, but the response had not been that encouraging.
“We’re trying hard to draw more Qatari players into the sport. We’ve a set of players who’ve been representing Qatar for a decade now. They may be expatriates, but they all are Qatar residents. There’s nothing wrong in using their services,” said QRHCF President Yousef Jeham Al Kuwari.
Same is the case with cricket and rugby, which also depend on the services of expatriate players.
“It’ll take time to have a squad consisting only of Qatari players. Cricket is the most popular among the sports that come under our federation and we hope to gradually achieve our target,” said Al Kuwari.
Hockey, an Olympic sport, has growth potential in Qatar. The QRHCF had started its own schools programme last year and is regularly organising coaching courses with the support of international hockey federation.
However, the expatriates can only be a guiding force initially. To develop the sport, having enough playing fields, grass-roots programmes, engagement of schools as well as spotting and nurturing of talents are a must.