EXPLAINER: Sports in Qatar as the country hosts the 2022 World Cup

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but soccer isn’t the only sport played in the Arab Gulf country.

From traditional activities to global competitions, Qatar has increasingly presented itself as a host of sports of all kinds.

Here is an overview of some of them:

TRADITIONAL SPORTS

Qataris enjoy the traditional sports of the Arabian Peninsula, especially falconry. In Doha, the capital of Qatar, there is even a bird hospital in the city’s traditional Souq Waqif. The falcons represent both a sheikh status symbol and a connection to Qatar’s Bedouin past. Hawks participate in beauty contests and races. Camel racing also remains popular, with competitions taking place during the cooler months of late fall and winter. Cricket is also popular, especially among Indians and other Southeast Asians who make up the majority of blue-collar construction jobs in the country. Keep in mind that foreign workers outnumber the country’s citizens, with only one Qatari for about 10 expatriates.

WORLD SPORT IN SHEIKHDOM

Like other Gulf Arab countries, Qatar has increasingly brought global sporting events to the country. One of the earliest and oldest is its annual Qatar Open tennis tournament. The Qatar Masters is a European golf tournament. It also hosts the Diamond League in Athletics, as well as competitions in beach volleyball, handball, motocross, and other sports. The country hosted its first Qatar Grand Prix for Formula 1 last year and hosted the Asian Games. The crown, however, is the FIFA World Cup, awarded to Qatar in 2010. Already, Qatar has hosted the FIFA Club World Cup.

FOOTBALL AND QATAR

Qatari historians believe football arrived in the country in 1948 when oil workers arrived after World War II to start production there. The country’s first football team was formed in 1950. The Qatar Football Association, established in 1960, joined FIFA 10 years later in 1970. Its national league started soon after. Today, the Qatar Stars League is the top football league in the country. Twelve teams compete for its championship. Al Sadd Sports Club remains their top club with most championships won, including last year’s. There are a number of Qataris competing, but also foreign nationals from countries like Algeria, Brazil and Morocco. Foreign coaches also run clubs there. As for major appearances, the Qatar national team participated in the Olympics in 1984 and 1992. They will be making their World Cup debut at this year’s tournament as hosts.

FUTURE ASPIRATIONS

Hosting the World Cup has propelled Qatar onto the world sporting scene more than any other event. Qatar will host the 2023 Asian Cup after China relinquished hosting rights to the football tournament, and will also host the 2030 Asian Games. Doha also has future plans. The Qatari capital has applied twice to participate in the Summer Games candidacy competitions without appearing on the list of candidates of the International Olympic Committee. Qatar had thought of trying to host the 2032 summer games, although Brisbane, Australia had already been selected as the preferred host. That doesn’t mean Qatar will stop trying. However, one thing stands in its way: heat. In summer, the temperature daily exceeds 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) with high humidity. This is why this World Cup is played in November and December to avoid this level of heat. The IOC prefers to organize the Summer Olympics in July and August, probably putting Qatar out of the race. However, Doha hosted the 2019 World Championships in Athletics in September and October – with sparse attendance and some athletes collapsing in the heat.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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