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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Proposal to cut foreigners from Qatar’s national team sparks debate


Qatar national football team
Qatar national football team

Despite heavily investing in foreign talent, Qatar’s national football team is not yielding results, some “football insiders” have lamented.

Officials are now considering cutting their losses and focusing solely on grooming homegrown players, Doha Stadium Plus reports.

But the national team’s new coach has warned against this strategy, saying he would resign if such a plan was carried out any time soon.

Qatar football coach Jorge Fossati
Qatar football coach Jorge Fossati

Speaking to DSP this week, Jorge Fossati said:

“If the federation wants to go another way, I’ll respect its decision 100 percent. And it’ll be better for the Qatar national team to have another coach who supports that view.”

FIFA rules

Currently, about half of Qatar’s national football team is comprised of naturalized foreigners.

Unlike in handball, however, FIFA has strict rules about how this works.

A player, his parents or his grandparents have to born in the country he represents.

Or, he must have lived in the country for at least five years after turning 18 years old.

Developing talent

Mindful of these rules, Qatar has been working to cultivate homegrown talent since it was awarded 2022 World Cup hosting rights.

In 2014 for example, the Qatar Football Association (QFA) announced that it would be reducing the number of foreign players in the coming seasons.

 Qatar U-19 football team
Qatar U-19 football team

Instead, it would focus on developing young local players, training more Qatari referees and coaches and reaching out to the community to bring in fans, QFA said at the time.

However, youth development has been difficult because Qatari players are not always sold on the contracts offered to them, and their families may not support them pursuing careers in sports.

Getting to Russia

Qatar has lost three out of five matches during the latest qualifying rounds for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Getting there on the team’s own merits is important to the country, which has never qualified for a World Cup and wants to do so before it automatically gets a chance to compete in 2022.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Fossati clarified to DSP that in the long term, reducing the number of naturalized players could be a good idea. But not in the near future:

“Thinking about 2022, Qatar can start preparing themselves and enter the tournament with more Qatari players, thanks to the new generation that’s emerging.

But not at present. It’s not a reality today. So we’ve to know whether we’re working for the future? If yes, then don’t ask me about the present. If we want to qualify for Russia, we need to use all the possibilities under the FIFA rules. We can have young Qataris like Akram (Afif), Salem (Al Hajri), Almoez (Ali) with us. But, at the same time, we must think about the results.”

The next qualifying matches will be held in March 2017.

Note: This article has been edited to reflect that Qatar has lost three matches during the 2018 qualifying rounds, not four as previously stated.


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