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Sport in Qatar is primarily centered on football in terms in participation and spectators. Additionally, athletics, basketball, handball, volleyball, camel racing, horse racing, cricket and swimming are also widely practiced. There are currently 11 multi-sports clubs in the country, and 7 single-sports clubs.
The largest sporting event hosted in Qatar was the 2006 Asian Games, hosted in Doha. There were 46 disciplines from 39 events contested. On 2 December 2010, Qatar won the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, thus becoming the first Arab nation to host the tournament.
Two weeks after stripping San Diego as the host of the first World Beach Games, the Association of National Olympic Committees on 14 June 2019 gave Qatar the honour to host the event. ANOC said “Qatar boasts spectacular oceanfront locations and is ready to provide the perfect setting.” The 2019 World Beach Games will be held from October 12 to 16.
Football is by far the most popular sport in Qatar, and is played and supported by locals and expatriates alike. The country has two tiers of domestic professional football leagues. The top tier, known as the Qatar Stars League, has undergone numerous expansions in the last several years. In 2009, the league expanded from ten to twelve clubs, and again expanded by two clubs in May 2013, bringing the total number of teams in the first division to fourteen. Attendance at QSL matches ranges between 2,000 and 10,000, depending on the popularity of the teams. In a 2014 survey conducted by Qatari government ministries and departments, 65% of the 1,079 respondents indicated that they did not attend a football match in the previous league season.
Al Sadd is the most successful sports club in the country, and have won the continental club competition on two separate occasions. Former Real Madrid and Spain striker Raul Gonzalez played for Al Sadd between 2012 and 2014, and in July 2015 the club announced the signing of former FC Barcelona and Spain playmaker Xavi. In May 2019, Xavi was appointed the head coach of the club following his retirement at the end of the 2018-19 season.
The Qatari national football team's greatest footballing accolade has been winning the Gulf Cup three times, first in 1992, and again in 2004 and 2015. The youth team also reached the final of the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship, where they lost 4-0 to West Germany in the final.
On 2 December 2010, Qatar won their bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Beating rival bids from Australia, the United States, South Korea, and Japan, FIFA stated that the Qatari bid ran on a platform of bringing the World Cup to the only part of the world previously excluded from hosting it, donating parts of stadia to under-developed countries in Africa and Asia after the competition finishes, and giving fans the opportunity to watch multiple matches in one day and reduce travel expenses by being the most compact tournament to date.
The local organising committee, the Supreme Committee for Development and Legacy, is planning to build nine new stadiums and expand three existing stadiums for this event. The first stadium to be completed will be the Khalifa International Stadium, due in 2016. Qatar's winning bid for the 2022 World Cup was greeted enthusiastically in the Arab world as it was the first time a country in the Middle East or North Africa had been selected to host the tournament.
The tournament is expected to generate thousands of jobs, with extensive infrastructure required to prepare the country to host the world's biggest sports games. Official Qatari sources have estimated that the country will spend US$138 billion, which will include new motorways, a new deep water port, a metro system as well as nine stadia and an extensive fan zone.
In addition to the awarding of contracts to international companies, the Supreme Committee announced its intention to support entrepreneurs and SMEs in the region through the Challenge 22 competition. Held for the first time in June 2015, the competition requires anyone inhabiting a GCC country to submit a business plan. Finalists are invited to Doha for two days of intense coaching, before pitching to judges and winning cash and incubation prizes.
To deliver these projects on time the economy and population are expected to double between 2014 and 2022, with the total number of inhabitants due to exceed four million. The need for new housing has given a boost to the construction and real estate sectors, with growth expected to be 9.5 percent according to the Qatar Statistics Authority.
The emblem for the 2022 FIFA World Cup was revealed in Doha on September 3, 2019. Since the 2022 FIFA would be the first to be played in winters, the emblem depicts a woollen shawl and is inspired by the Arab culture.
Shortly after the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar, the bid was embroiled in controversy, including allegations of bribery. European football associations have also objected to the 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar for a variety of reasons, including the impact of high temperatures on players' fitness, to the disruption it might cause in European domestic league calendars should the event be rescheduled to take place during winter. In March 2015, FIFA and Qatar agreed that the competition would be held in November and December 2022.
In May 2014, Qatari football official Mohammed bin Hammam was accused of making payments totalling £3m to officials in return for their support for the Qatar bid. However, a FIFA inquiry into the bidding process in November 2014 cleared Qatar of any wrongdoing. The Guardian, a British national daily newspaper, produced a short documentary named "Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022".
A 2014 investigation by The Guardian reported that migrant workers who had been constructing luxurious offices for the organizers of the 2022 World Cup had not been paid in over a year, and were "working illegally from cockroach-infested lodgings." The Qatar 2022 organising committee have responded to various allegations by claiming that hosting the World Cup in Qatar would act as a "catalyst for change" in the region.
International criticism of Qatar for worker abuse caused authorities to make a wide-ranging review of conditions, led by the Ministry of Labour.
Qatar authorities have also sought to improve the situation by commissioning British law firm DLA Piper to undertake a review of conditions in 2012. Following the recommendations made, Qatar Foundation created the Migrant Workers Welfare Charter which apply minimum requirements with respect to the recruitment, living and working conditions, as well as the general treatment of workers engaged in construction and other projects. The mandatory standards will be incorporated into agreements between Qatar Foundation and all its contractors, who are required to comply with the requirements and rules. Contractors and sub-contractors found to be violating the regulations have been blacklisted from future tenders.
Labour rights have slowly been improving since the review; for example, in August 2015, Qatar announced it will launch a new electronic salary system to guarantee safe and punctual payments directly into workers’ bank accounts. Companies that fail to pay their workers on time will be fined and the country maintains that prison sentences could even be handed out. Government ministers also predict that changes to the country's kafala system will be announced later in 2015.
Futsal became an officially sanctioned sport in 2007, when the fully professional Qatar Futsal League was established. There are two futsal tournaments; the QFA Futsal Cup and the Open Cup, which was inaugurated in 2010. Futsal is overseen by a department of the Qatar Football Association. A women's league was launched in 2009 under the auspices of the Women's Sports Committee.
Basketball is an increasingly popular sport in Qatar. The sport is administered by the Qatar Basketball Federation (QBF). The QBF was established in 1964, but was only admitted into the FIBA Asia and the Organizing Committee of the GCC in 1979.
Qatar's first basketball championship came in the 1995 GCC Youth Championship. The national basketball team won back-to-back bronze medals in the 2003 and 2005 editions of the Asian Basketball Championship and qualified for the 2006 FIBA World Championship. Qatar is also bidding for hosting rights for the 2023 FIBA World Championship.
Cricket is the second most popular sport of Qatar, albeit one that the local citizens play very little. Despite that, workers and residents from the Indian Subcontinent love to play the game that is treated near to a religion back in their home territories, and because the subcontinent accounts for nearly half the citizens in Qatar, the game is rapidly picking up its pace. Although the local Qatar national team isn't as popular, cricket tournaments such as the ICC World Cup and the ICC World Twenty20 which exclude Qatar but include nations which account for most of the expatriates in the country are one of the most viewed sporting events in the country.
Handball is a very popular team sport in Qatar. It was introduced to the country in 1968; however, Qatar did not join the International Handball Federation until the 1970s. The Qatar national handball team qualified for the IHF World Men's Handball Championship on four separate occasions, and automatically qualified for a fifth as host. Qatar came runners-up to France in the 2015 World Handball Championship held on home soil, however the tournament was marred by various controversies.
Qatar Racing Club, a drag racing facility where the Arabian Drag Racing League competes, is located in the country's capital Doha on a 150,000 m² area. Its racing track has a capacity for 2,000 people.
Qatari athlete Nasser Al-Attiyah has won 2011 and 2015 Dakar Rally, the 2008 and 2015 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, the Production World Rally Championship in 2006, and the 2014 and 2015 World Rally Championship-2.
The Losail International Circuit has hosted the Qatar motorcycle Grand Prix since 2004, a Superbike World Championship round from 2005-2009 and since 2014, and a Motocross World Championship round since 2013.
The Grand Prix of Qatar, a round in the Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship, was held annually in Doha Bay from 2005 to 2015. In addition, the state-sponsored Qatar Team won four Formula 1 championships with Jay Price (2008) and Alex Carella (2011-13). Qatar ended their involvement in Formula 1 powerboat racing in early 2015 with the merger of the Qatar Sailing Federation and Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF).
Falconry is widely practiced by Qataris. The only falconry association is Al Gannas, which was founded in 2008 in Katara and which hosts the Annual Falconry Festival. There are roughly 3,000 people in Qatar who own falcons. Hunting season extends from October to April. Prices of falcons can be extremely high, being as expensive as QR 1 million.
Historically camel racing was a tradition among the Bedouin tribes of Qatar and would be performed on special occasions such as weddings. It was not until 1972, one year after Qatar's independence, that camel racing was practiced on a professional level. Typically, camel racing season takes place from September to March. Approximately 22,000 racing camels are used in competitions which are mainly held at the country's primary camel racing venue, the Al-Shahaniya Camel Racetrack. The average distance of such races is usually 4 to 8 km depending on the conditions of the camels being raced.
Statistics accurate as of 2013.
So entrenched is this exploitation that the Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, recently described the emirate as an "open jail".