2022-11-25 11:52:42

The Making, Means and Aim of Qatars Foray Into Global Soccer

Logo Sports Illustrated (SI)
Sports Illustrated (SI)
By Greg Bishop

AL RAYYAN, Qatar – The building that explains this nation’s soccer history is surrounded by college campuses and shaped like a diamond, the immense space inside like an airplane hangar, only modern and open and yet somehow still crammed with over a million books. For now, though, the centerpiece display at the Qatar National Library in Education City isn’t Arab-Islamic science texts written in Latin in 1448, nor some of the first Arabic books ever printed.

No, as with all things in the region this month and next, the World Cup is the prominent display. And here, on the library’s ground floor, there is an exhibit that explains Qatar’s soccer ambitions, along with its small but growing place in the modern international game, along with what that means for all their other aspirations, politics included.

Factoids abound near a soccer ball that resembles a tiny house, the one guarded by flags from all the participants in this tournament. One of the first-ever officiated matches here took place in Dukhan, in 1948, “under the supervision,” naturally, “of a petroleum company.” Soon after, the first Qatari football team, the Arab Union, formed, its roster fashioned from workers the petroleum company employed. By ’51, Qatar had created its first football championship.

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