QFA President Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani (C) along with Chief Operating Officer Khalid al-Kuwari (L), Secretary General Saoud al-Mohannadi (second from right) and other officials arrive for the Emir Cup draw yesterday. At right boys parade with the Emir Cup trophy.

By Anil John/Sports Editor

Finally, the Qatar Football Association has woken up to the open yet unspoken secret that many foreign footballers plying their trade for Qatari clubs are here only for the money.
In accordance with Qatar’s push to become a major football centre – the successful 2022 World Cup bid being a part of that plan – clubs in the country have splashed hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade and a half to hire players from all over the world in the hope that their skills and experience will bring about a positive change in the way the game is played in the country.
But while many of them have left an indelible mark on Qatar’s football history and earned the love and respect of fans, many have also failed to match the hype surrounding their signing or do justice to the salaries they were offered, causing resentment in certain quarters.
But this is about to change, what with authorities drawing up plans with the aim of developing a Qatar-born and bred team in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“Many foreign layers are not giving their real worth to the clubs they are playing for,” QFA president Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani told reporters yesterday after the draw for this month’s Emir’s Cup tournament was made.
“Foreign players are recruited at a very high cost by the clubs but often you see they don’t perform well, which is not a healthy trend. I don’t want to name names, but it is obvious that the majority of foreign players are not performing up to the standards expected of them,” Sheikh Hamad added.
Keeping this in mind, clubs will be allowed to recruit only three foreign players for the 2014-15 season, as opposed to four permitted until now.
This, authorities believe, will boost the chances of more Qatari players to be part of the national team with the 2022 World Cup in mind.
“Qatari players should be encouraged to be part of the national team,” Sheikh Hamad said. “Their skills should be developed and for that we need to put in place a system whereby they progress through the ranks.”
Sheikh Hamad said that a large number of young Qatari players who are picked by clubs for training eventually drop out.
“About 2,700 youngsters under the age of 13 were part of the club system but by the time they reached 17 years of age only about 350 were continuing. We need to find out the reasons for this.”
The QFA chief, however, defended referees in Qatar who have been copping a lot of flak of late and requested of the media to be a bit soft on them.
“Qatari referees overall have a very good reputation but it is obvious some of them have not gained that much experience and therefore are prone to committing mistakes. Please don’t attack them in the media,” he urged.
Sheikh Hamad said referees are humans and make mistakes, but emphasised that it has become a habit with losing teams and coaches to blame them.
“Coaches should also take a hard look at the way their players perform instead of blaming referees for defeats. Referees everywhere make mistakes. Even in the clasico matches in Spain mistakes are committed.”
He also said that more Qatari coaches will be introduced into the system in the coming years.
“It is a priority for us to see clubs employ Qatari coaches and we are establishing a skills development programme to train local coaches,” he said, adding that from 2016 even team managers will not be appointed without earning a diploma.
Sheikh Hamad cited the example of former national team coach Fahad Thani, who is now in charge of the under-23 side.
“Fahad Thani made his mark as a coach with the national team. There is no reason why other Qataris cannot succeed,” he said.
Sheikh Hamad had a word of praise for Al Ahli for their community initiatives which have resulted in several expatriate-oriented ventures.
“The expats here are part of the larger Qatari community and it is the duty of the clubs to ensure they take social responsibility seriously,” he said.

Shamal to take on Shahaniya in Emir Cup opener

Al Shamal will take on Al Shahaniya in the opening match of the Emir Cup at the Al Arabi Stadium on April 17.
The draw ceremony took place yesterday at the Al Gassar Resort with 18 teams participating in the most lucrative tournament in Qatar.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani, President of Qatar Football Association, Saoud al-Mohannadi, Vice-President, Hani Balan, QFA Board Member and many team officials and dignitaries attended the glitzy ceremony.
The Emir Cup will be held at four stadiums --  Qatar Sports Club, Al Arabi Sports Club, Al Sadd Sports Club, and Khalifa International Stadium.
The final match is due to take place at Khalifa International Stadium May 17 at 7PM.
The 42nd edition of the Emir Cup will be the first one played in honour of HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani who was named the Emir last year.
The top four teams in the Qatar Stars League – Lekhwiya, El Jaish, Al Sadd and Al Sailiya – will play the quarter-finals directly, while a number of teams from the lower divisions will have to play three elimination rounds before four of them progress to the last eight stage.
Lekhwiya have already won the Qatar Stars League but the battle for second place is still one between El Jaish, Al Sadd and Al Sailiya and will be decided on Friday, the last day of the tournament.

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