Welcome to “Flashback” our new blog series that will bring you some special moments from the history of football in Qatar.
Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich have just concluded their sixth consecutive annual winter training camp at Aspire Zone in Doha on Monday with a short warm-up morning session before heading back to Germany for the second half of the season where they will be hoping to defend the league title and maybe go a step further by returning to the summit of European football in Pep Guardiola’s final season as head coach.
Many do not know that when FC Bayern held their first ever training session at Aspire Zone in 2011, it was not the club’s first visit to Qatar.
In April 2004, the Bavarians were invited to Doha for an exhibition match against an all-star team from Qatar Stars League. The match was a main highlight of QSI-EXPO, one of the first football business exhibitions to take place in Qatar.
The match was played at the newly-built 25,000 capacity, Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, recently dismantled to make way for the new Al Rayyan Stadium which will host some of the 2022 World Cup matches.
Al Arabi boss, Wolfgang Sidka, was charged with the mission of forming an all-star team to face the Bundesliga champions, and it was never going to be a difficult task for the German coach. The 2003-04 season was the inaugural edition of the “Qatar Stars League”, a project that attracted a handful of world-class players.
French World cup winning defender Franck Leboeuf of Al Sadd and Argentine forward Claudio Cannigia of Qatar SC were not available for selection with their sides taking part in the AFC Champions League, while Argentine legend and the league’s top scorer Gabriel Batistuta was injured, but still Sidka was able to pick up a strong squad to face the German giants.
The starting line-up of the Qatar Stars League all-star team included current FC Bayern coach Pep Guardiola (Al Ahli) and two former stars of the Bavarian giants Steffen Effenberg and Mario Basler.
You can also easily notice in the team photo (above) the likes of former Real Madrid captain Fernando Hierro (Spain) and former Manchester City and PSG midfielder Ali Benarbia (Algeria).
Bouchaib El Moubarki (Morocco – front row fourth from the left), Razzaq Farhan (Iraq – back row first from left), former Al Rayyan captain Sahn Al Shmarri (Qatar – back row first from right), Fabjan Cipot (Slovenia – back row second from left), Nasser Kamil (Qatar – back row third from right) and goalkeeper Mohamed Enyas (Qatar) made up the rest of the starting lineup.
FC Bayern’s starting eleven included (front row left to right) Roy Makaay (Netherlands), Owen Hargereaves (England), Piotr Trochowski, Oliver Kahn, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Tobias Rau (Germany), (Back row left to right) Jens Jeremies, Michael Ballack (Germany), Samuel Kuffour (Ghana), Claudio Pizzaro (Peru) and Hasan Salihamidzic (Bosnia).
Hitzfeld under pressure
It was a difficult season for FC Bayern and their long-time head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld as they were trailing by seven points behind Bundesliga leaders Werder Bremen, while their UEFA Champions League adventure ended in the round of 16 against Real Madrid thanks to Zinedine Zidane’s winner at Santiago Bernabeu.
They were also knocked out of the German Cup in the quarter finals by second division side Alemannia Aachen. The Doha trip offered both a financial incentive that would compensate the early Champions league exit and a chance for the team to take a short break from the pressure at home.
The game was played in a festive atmosphere and the local fans were up for a thriller, as their all-star side went directly for attack straight after the opening whistle of Qatar referee Abdullah Al Qahtani.
The local side were in control for most of the first half thanks to the midfield quartet of Benarbia, Guardiola, Basler and Effenberg. Bayern legendary keeper Oliver Kahn did well to deny Farhan and El Moubarki early in the game.
The visitors started to find their way to Mohamed Enyas’s goal in the closing minutes of the half, but the Al Wakrah goalkeeper was up for the task.
Both sides made few changes at the break, Michael Rensing replaced Kahn in the German side, while Sidka brought on goalkeeper Amer Al Kaabi, defender Bilal Mohamed, striker Meshaal Abdullah and Moroccan midfielder Youssef Chippo, then later Walid Hamza and Ahmed Fares will also given a chance to play against the Bavarians.
Substitute Thorsten Fink broke the deadlock at the hour mark heading in a cross past Al Kaabi, but the German side’s lead lasted only for 12 minutes. Rensing blocked an effort from Chippo but Meshaal Abduallah was in the right place to follow up with a close range finish.
Five minutes later, another Substitute, Caló, the former Cape Verde international of Al Ahli, gave the hosts a surprise, but deserved lead, with a beautiful strike, but ten minutes from the final whistle, Claudio Pizarro saved the Germans from could have been an embarrassing defeat with a late equalizer.
A nail-biting finale
The game went on to penalties, Salihamidzic gave Bayern a 1-0 lead, but Caló equalized.
Trochowski shot wide, as Rokki gave the local side a 2-1 lead, then Hargeraves leveled the score again, but unofertunatey Hamza failed to hit the target.
Al Kaabi made a fine effot to deny Pizzaro and Chippo put the all-stars in front again (3-2), but as Makaay equalized, Meshaal squandered a chance to give his side a memorable victory and it went to sudden death.
Kuffour Scored for Bayern and Amaral missed as the German champions came out winners (4-3).
This year we have met with Andi, one of the most devoted fans of FC Bayern, as he accompanied the team in Doha for the sixth consecutive year.
Andreas has never missed an official FC Bayern match since 1990, he was always in the stands supporting the Bavarians wherever they went, and it was interesting to know how was his experience when he watched the 2004 game at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.
“It was really special time for me, FC Bayern were making their first trip to Qatar, and it was an opportunity to see a new city and experience a new culture, Everything looks different now, back then there were fewer big buildings and there was no Aspire Zone, it is really amazing how things progressed in here” he said.
“The match was in Al Rayyan, I still remember many things about this game, around 20 fans traveled with the team from Germany and there were more fans from the locals, you know it was only an exhibition game but I enjoyed it.”
One of the most astonishing facts about Brück is that he have attended one football match at least everyday in the past few years, and last year alone he have been to more than 500 matches ! he is waiting eagerly for the World Cup in Qatar after seven years.
“12 years ago when we watched the match in Al Rayyan, the most annoying thing was the traffic jam on the way back to Doha, things have changed now I know, but with the planned metro project in Qatar it will be a one-of-a-kind world cup, as football fans like me will have a chance to be at three World Cup matches in one day, that will be really amazing” he added.
After the big game in Doha, Al Sadd went on to win the first QSL title, the competition developed greatly over the following years and was recently expanded to 14 teams, with more and more stars making a stop in Doha during their career including the likes of Raul Gonzalez and Xavi Hernandez.
But for FC Bayern it was a different story as they went back to Germany, lost their league title to Werder Bremen, and Hitzfeld was eventually sacked. He was replaced by Felix Magath who led the Bavarians to a league and cup double in two consecutive seasons before being replaced by Hitzfeld again in 2007!