‘Playing in a World Cup on home soil is a dream come true’
Qatar stars Bassam Al Rawi and Almoez Ali play at opposite ends of the field – but they are both determined to deliver a strong performance for the host nation at next year’s FIFA World Cup™.
The stalwart defender and prolific goal scorer have emerged as mainstays in Qatar’s line-up after starring in the country’s run to AFC Asian Cup glory in 2019. And with just under a year to go until the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Middle East and Arab world, the pair cannot wait to showcase their talents to a global audience.
“Every player wants to play in the World Cup – and getting the chance to do so in front of your home fans is a dream come true,” said Ali, who has scored goals in three continental championships.
“I hope we can write a new chapter in Qatari football history when we take to the pitch in a year’s time,” continued Ali, who plays for Al Duhail in the Qatar Stars League. “Our goal isn’t merely to take part – we strive to make it to the furthest stage possible. We are not just representing Qatar – we are representing the entire Arab world.”
Defender Al Rawi said teams across the region are desperate to qualify for the tournament.
“Every four years, teams from the Arab world give everything to book a place on the world stage – but with the tournament on our doorstep for the first time, the desire is even greater this time around,” said Al Rawi, who was named in the team of the tournament at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Qatar’s progress has been significant over the past decade. Much of the national team squad are graduates of Aspire Academy – a sporting centre of excellence that has trained local talent since 2004. The country has fared well in youth tournaments across the region, with the crowning glory coming two years ago with victory in the AFC Asian Cup, held in the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar has since taken part in both the Copa America and Gold Cup as a guest nation, and played a series of friendlies against European teams after being invited to compete in UEFA’s FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign. The team performed particularly well at the Gold Cup earlier this year, reaching the semi-finals, where they lost narrowly to the eventual winners, the United States.
“We have been working on this project for a very long time, both on and off the pitch,” said Al Rawi, who is a teammate of Ali at Al Duhail. “In addition to the work being done to prepare the country to host the tournament, an equal effort has been put in to develop football in the country, which has resulted in a team which will go into the next World Cup as the champions of Asia.”
While both Ali and Al Rawi concentrate on matters on the pitch, they are also confident of Qatar’s abilities to host an outstanding tournament for fans from across the globe.
“I think fans will be mesmerised by what Qatar has to offer, not just in terms of football facilities but also from a cultural and entertainment point of view. I think this World Cup will be unlike any other in tournament history,” said Al Rawi.
Ali, who was top scorer at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup with nine goals, said: “This World Cup will be a source of pride for all Arabs. For years, fans from the region have watched this beautiful event from afar but now it is finally coming to our region.”
The tournament will also provide fans with an opportunity to learn about Qatar and the region.
“People will learn more about our culture,” said Ali, who has scored 36 goals for Qatar. “It is something reflected in the design of our stadiums – like Al Bayt and Al Thumama. We are honouring our heritage while building world-class facilities. I am sure this tournament will appeal to fans from the region and beyond.”
Ali also believes the timing of the tournament will improve performance. Qatar 2022 will kick off on 21 November, meaning the majority of players will be in the middle of their seasons.
“It is going to be spectacular as players will be in optimal shape, as opposed to being fatigued at the end of a long season.”
For Ali and Al Rawi, they will be desperate to be in perfect condition when Qatar takes to the pitch at Al Bayt Stadium for the opening match, on what will be a landmark moment in the history of the country and the region.