QATAR Football Association National Teams Management’s Technical Advisor Saeed Al Misnad felt the country’s league had a long way to go if it was to catch up with top European competitions.
Al Misnad cited many reasons why the Qatar Stars League (QSL) was not on par with the likes of the Premier League, Spanish La Liga or Italian Serie A. The most important factor was the lack of crowd and absence of a thorough football culture.
“Lack of spectators is the major problem that we face, notwithstanding the fact that the QSL is young compared to the major leagues, which had turned professional many decades ago. Nevertheless, many things can be done to attract crowd to the venues. Fans’ encouragement at the stadiums will positively affect the players’ performance,” Al Misnad told Doha Stadium Plus.
“In the first place, the onus is on the clubs to bring spectators to their matches. In Europe and South America, there’s great fan support for even smaller teams and almost all matches are played in front of capacity crowd. Spectators throng their training sessions too.
“European clubs are sort of companies which’re fully independent and fund their own needs. In our scenario, it’ll be too tough an asking immediately, but they can take many innovative measures, like giving fans incentives, shopping vouchers, memberships and certain privileges. Such practices prevail in some countries.
“Football is a game of the masses. I was sad that the marquee clash between Lekhwiya and Al Sadd last week didn’t draw much crowd. This happens not only in Qatar, but in entire Asia with the exception of some leagues. The situation is better in some countries in our region, say for example, Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” said Al Misnad, who has donned the colours of Al Khor, Al Sadd and Al Ahli as well as the national team.
“Then comes the inconsistency in teams’ performance. You win one match and lose the next. That also adversely affects the league’s overall standard.
“Last season, Al Rayyan were winning most of the games and that evoked keen interest among their followers. Same was the case with Al Ahli. This time around, both aren’t doing that great and that’s reflecting on the crowd turnout for their matches!” said Al Misnad, adding European clubs were at a different level having been able to splash millions of euros for players of their choice.
Al Misnad, who had coached Qatar to a sixth-place finish at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand in 1999, said live telecast of matches was another factor.
“Who’ll bother to watch matches at the stadiums when you can do it in the comfort of your rooms? The situation is different in Europe. Fans throng venues there to get a feel of the action then and there. I feel the live telecast acts as a deterrent. We can perhaps think of showing at least some matches as deferred live,” said Al Misnad, who recalled the times when watching league games at stadiums was the only way for people to know the results.