By Alaa Mohamed – Over the past few years, the Amateur football scene in Qatar has been rapidly growing.
Football has always been the most popular sport in the country since it was introduced by British oil workers in the 1940’s, and with the recent economic boom, each year thousands of new expatriates move to the Gulf country, with their absolute passion for the game.
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QIAFL, founded in 2011, was one of the first well-organized amateur competitions. It saw a lot of success and now consists of 18 teams playing over two divisions. QSports also made some significant effort to bring together amateur players in 7-a-side and Futsal events, and most recently QFA introduced its own Amateur League with 16 teams, including teams representing the Sudanese, Lebanese and British communities in Qatar.
Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the amateur football scene in future hosts of the FIFA World Cup, brining you some interesting stories about people from every walk of life. People who share one thing in common; their passion for the beautiful game.
A trip to Mesaieed
About 50 kilometers south of Doha, lies the small town of Mesaieed, famous for being the home of one of Qatar’s top industrial zones and also some of the finest beaches in the Gulf.
Our target was to catch one of the “Indomie-IFQ Football League” afternoon matches. We have always heard that the league’s games boast its special festive atmosphere and colorful fan base, in addition to a fierce rivalry between its eight teams, and with the perfect weather last Friday it was time for Football Qatar to take a trip down south and sample the local football fever.
Unfortunately, upon arrival the Indomie-IFG Football League afternoon matches turned out to have been canceled due to one of the team’s withdrawal. The next fixtures are scheduled later this week and Football Qatar will be on hand to report.
At the same field that was supposed to host the canceled match, another game was going on. Around 30 or 40 fans stood or sat on the small, pitch-side stand. They were fully engrossed in the game. They shouted, screamed and clapped at each goal attempt or chance gone begging.
Near the sideline a man, mid thirties and wearing a football kit, shouted instructions at the 22 players. Was he a player roaring to join the game and show his skills or was he a coach? The mystery was soon solved.
Meet Milan Khatri
Milan is Nepalese. He has been living and working in Qatar since 2004.
The hotly-contested game, at times resembling a battle, turned out to be a friendly, organized by the Nepalese community in Qatar. Jana Jagriti and The Unity Boyz were squaring off. Milan watched on with pride as some players he coaches at youth level were playing.
But then what was the reason for the ardent show of passion and ferocity by the majority of the players?
“A number of players from this match will be chosen to be part of the Nepalese Community Football Team, for many of these players it is a dream to play with the community side, representing their community is a great honor, they give their best,” Milan explained.
The Non Resident Nepali Association [NRNA] in Qatar has been the driving force behind these matches. The association connected all the dots: they reached out to the Nepalese community, promoted events through local Nepali newspapers and rented the football facilities.
Last year, the NRNA collaborated with the Qatar Stars League [QSL] and Doha’s Al Arabi Club to organize ‘The NRN Football Cup.’ Twenty-four amateur outfits participated in the tournament that reached its climax on October 13th with the final preceding a game in the QSL, Al Arabi – Al Shamal. Jana Jagriti were crowned champions after defeating Narayan Gopal 3-0.
“We have a big community in Qatar, and many of these men playing today simply do not have the time or the resources to organize such matches or events, and NRNA is taking care of that,” Milan said. “They are giving an opportunity for everyone to play and enjoy the game of football. You do not need connections or anything else to be part of this. If you love football and want to play, you can simply come and do it.”
“You must come and watch the atmosphere during the Ramadan Tournaments, simply amazing, and it is even more awesome during the matches between our community team and other communities, like the Indian or Philippino team,” Milan added.
Football means life
After a chat with Milan, we turned our attention to the game, and midway through the second half there was a severe clash of heads between two of the players, but fortunately it did not end in a drama, and both were able to continue the match.
In the final few minutes, we approached one of Unity Boyz’ players, Bishal Gyawali, a fast winger with quick feet and tricky dribbles, who was substituted off at during the second half. Wearing the number 10 jersey, he looked on from the bench as his side would ultimately run out comfortable winners, 4-1.
Bishal came to Qatar in 2008 from Biratnagar, a southeastern city in Nepal, and ever since he has been working in a construction company. Bishal was frank – football is not just leisure in the weekend.
“After working hard for a full week, playing football means everything to me,” he said.
“It is an essential part of my life like eating and breathing, not only because doing some sport is more healthy and better than staying at home during my day offs, but also because it is a great opportunity to meet with old and new friends in a relaxed atmosphere,” Bishal explained with a distant pride in his voice. He is aiming to represent the Nepalese Community Football Team in the future.
For Bishal football is an outlet, a positive way of dealing with everyday life and career challenges. In the forthcoming weeks football in the weekend will come under threat though. The pitch is to undergo its annual maintenance and it’s a huge challenge to find an alternative in the winter when the calendar is congested.
“It’s disappointing news for me and for the team, not playing football at the weekend!” exclaimed Milan. “But we have nothing to do, the pitch needs maintenance. We are trying to secure another one in Al Wakrah, but we do not yet know how it will go.”
Bishal and his team – on his insistence – posed for a photo after the final whistle. They smiled with much joy and happiness, and that was just priceless.
Next week Football Qatar will cover the “Indomie-IFQ Football League.” Stay tuned
More Photos from the wonderful day in Mesaieed