A common legacy of staging a FIFA World Cup is the positive development seen in the host country’s football structure – and Qatar is already seeing these dividends in the growth of the grassroots game through the Qatar Community Football League (QCFL).
Founded in 2016 by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) and run in partnership with Evolution Sports Qatar, the QCFL has experienced phenomenal growth from its inception.
The league now includes men’s, boys’ and girls’ divisions for players aged seven and above, with the season running from September to May each year.
“This is a community league that allows anyone to join and play,” said QCFL Manager, Omar Saad.
“The league has developed massively since it started. In our first season, we had 24 teams and less than 400 players. Now, we have over 2,000 players and close to 90 teams across all the divisions.”
QCFL youth game
QCFL has become an important platform for amateur players and developed into a vibrant symbol of the diversity that makes up Qatar’s many communities.
“We’ve got over 78 different nationalities playing in the league and they don’t come just to play football on a weekly basis,” said Saad.
“Players get to know new people, make new friends and understand new cultures.”
As well as boosting grassroots football, the QCFL has also provided players with the platform to play the beautiful game at a higher level.
“Our league has helped establish new teams and academies,” said Saad.
“We’ve also seen players move on to play professional football, either here in Qatar or abroad. It’s a real honour to help players compete in the game at a high level.”
The QCFL also has a strong connection to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Matches are held on the training pitches next to Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium – one of eight Qatar 2022 venues.
Saad added: “The quality of these pitches is incredible – exactly the same as the World Cup stadiums. For the players in our league to experience them is unreal.”
He added: “It makes them feel like professionals and World Cup stars.”
Providing a safe environment where everyone can play organised football is one of the many legacies to be established from Qatar’s staging of the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world.
“The legacy of the World Cup can be felt before the tournament kicks off,” said Khaled Al Suwaidi, the SC’s Stakeholder Relations Director.
“We were adamant when establishing the league to involve as many communities as possible, so they can take part in an active lifestyle, while giving them the opportunity to play at World Cup facilities.”
For Saad, the future looks bright for the QCFL and grassroots football in Qatar.
“The plan is to continue developing the league with our partners, establish new divisions and help new teams play in the league,” he said.
“We hope that it continues for many years to come.”
Young children in action during a match hosted by Qatar Community Football League.