Well done, Qatar!

 01 Feb 2018 - 10:57

The Peninsula

It was a memorable week for Qatari sports teams. The sporting glory witnessed in the last seven days is the result of heavy investments made by Qatar to develop a deep-rooted sports culture of excellence. Last Sunday, Qatar’s handball team beat Bahrain 33-31 to emerge Asian Handball Championship winners. In the title clash played in South Korean city Suwon on Sunday, Qatar stayed ahead to win the final and to qualify for the 2019 World Championship to be held in Germany and Denmark. It was the third straight title win over Bahrain, a team they also beat in 2014 and 2016. Qatar’s Frankis Marzo was named the Player of the Match. 

Two days before Qatar notched their third successive Asian title glory in handball, the country’s Olympic squad stunned a strong Korean Republic side 1-0 to seal the third position at the AFC U-23 Asian Cup held in China. Qatar relied on the strike from attacking winger Akram Afif to secure their third-place finish at the 16-team tournament. At the same event held in Doha in 2016, hosts Qatar ended the tournament in fourth place. 

Coached by Felix Sanchez, Qatar in 2018 went one better to impress pundits with their attacking brand of football. Feared striker Almoez Ali emerged as the Golden Boot winner, netting an astonishing six goals. Afif, who was unveiled as an Al Sadd player yesterday, finished the hugely popular tournament with three strikes to his name. 

In a separate but pleasing football-related news, Qatar giants Al Gharafa on Tuesday shocked Uzbek powerhouse Pakhtakor 2-1 to secure a Group Stage berth at this year’s AFC Champions League, the biggest football competition in the continent. Dutch star and team captain Wesley Sneijder and team-mate Diogo Amodo were on target as Al Gharafa became the fourth Qatar club to feature at the AFC Champions League. The other sides are Al Duhail, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan. The four sides - known as ‘The Big Four’ - will be battling for honours in the nine-month long league. 

With Qatar sports fans savouring important milestones at home and away over the course of the week, all eyes will now turn to global track and field star Mutaz Barshim who leads a strong contingent at the four-day Asian Athletics Championships set to kick off in Iranian capital Tehran today. Barshim, the current world champion in high jump, will launch the 2018 season knowing last year he was named the Athlete of the Year by the IAAF, the world governing body. 

Clearly, Qatar sports is moving in the right direction.