Father and son goalkeepers merge Al Rayyan’s past, present and future
When Younes Ahmed made his debut for Al Rayyan Sports Club in 1978, football in Qatar was a rapidly growing sport. Just a year earlier, the Qatar national team played its first FIFA World Cup™ qualifier against neighbouring Bahrain. More than four decades later, Younes stands on the turf at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, one of eight stadiums that two years from now will host matches during the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world.
For Younes, the moment is made even more momentous by the fact he is joined by his son, Fahed Younes Ahmed, the current Al Rayyan goalkeeper. Father and son are proud that the 40,000-capacity venue will soon become the new home of Al Rayyan – and while Fahed is looking forward to playing in the new venue, he also has another dream – to represent his country and follow in the footsteps of his father, who played as Qatar’s first choice goalkeeper for 17 years.
“When the World Cup gets underway in 2022, my dream is to be part of the starting 11 representing Qatar,” says Fahad, who joined Al Rayyan after graduating from the world-renowned Aspire Academy.
“I know that the level at which my father played is difficult for any goalkeeper to reach. It requires a lot of sacrifice and a sharp mindset. You need to remain focused in the face of tremendous challenges. I doubt that I will be able to surpass him, but I aspire to reach his level one day,” he added.
While taking in the views of the new Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Younes recalled his own career as he looks forward to witnessing Fahad’s journey with the same club. Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium was inaugurated on 18 December when it hosted the Amir Cup final – a trophy Younes lifted in 1997.
“The Amir Cup final that year is the most memorable club game of my career,” said Younes. “It was the sixth final that I played in having lost the previous five. Al Rayyan hadn’t won the tournament for 25 years, so when I became the first captain to lift the cup after such a long absence, it made the match and victory one that I will never forget.”
Younes added: “From the beginning, I dreamed of Fahad playing for Al Rayyan, the same club I proudly represented for so many years. Having a huge fan base like the one Al Rayyan has means that players are constantly under pressure to excel, but I believe that is a positive space to be in as an emerging player like Fahad is.”
Known as ‘The Fierce’, Al Rayyan are renowned for their wide support, with fans spanning the entire Gulf region. Dubbed ‘Al Rayyan Nation’, supporters of the club have seen the side crowned champions of Qatar on eight occasions – most recently in 2015 – and Amir Cup winners six times.
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, which is set to host matches up to and including the round of 16 stage during Qatar 2022, is built on the site of the old Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium. A large proportion of the materials from the old venue were used in the new development and precinct. During legacy mode, the stadium’s top tier will be removed, with the excess seats donated to create sporting venues in Qatar and overseas.
Younes said: “As a Qatari citizen, I am honoured to see stadiums like this. It's something to be proud of, to have a beautiful stadium built to such high standards that is characterised by the beautiful red and black colours of the seats. I wish that I could've played in a stadium like this when I was a player, but what does give me joy is that my son will hopefully be one of the players that will get to play in this stadium in the future.”
Younes added: “Having a venue like this in Qatar will without a doubt have a positive impact on our ability to develop football in this country, particularly in terms of producing generations of future talent.”
Having the opportunity to play in a World Cup stadium means something entirely different for Fahad.
“I was really young when my father used to play. I was maybe five or six years old, so I don't remember much but I do remember watching a lot of videos of him playing. I hope playing in Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium becomes a launching pad for my career. I want to make my father proud – just as proud as I was when I used to watch him play.”