Sheffield F.C. Chairman: 'The Middle East is Crazy About Football'
The oldest football club in the world, Sheffield F.C. from England, this weekend celebrated its 158th birthday. On a recent visit to Qatar, Sheffield F.C. Chairman Richard Tims took the opportunity to visit Doha Stadium, the oldest stadium in the country and the first grass pitch in the region.
Doha Stadium was first used as a football pitch in 1953, with a Northern stand added in 1960 and the remaining stands built and grass planted two years later. Having seen the place where Qatar's first league matches were played in 1963, and where Pele and his world-famous Santos side were cheered on by a full house a decade later, Tims sat down with www.sc.qa to discuss Qatar's football history and future, the passion for football in the Arab world and spreading the values of football across the world.
On your visit to Qatar you took the opportunity to visit the first football stadium in the country, which is still used for community matches until this day. What were your impressions?
It is a great honour, being from the world's first football club, to visit the first place that football was played in Qatar. We are a pioneer, being the first football club in the world, and there are pioneers all over the world. Qatar are now the new pioneers of football, having the opportunity to host the World Cup in 2022. So it is great to be here, celebrating the history of football in Doha.
How do you see the country's preparations as it advances towards the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™?
It can only be positive. Obviously there has been criticism, and as I say to some people who are critical in the UK: The best way to bring on change is through football. I've lived and worked out here a number of years ago, so I know the cultures and traditions and I know it is a football crazy region. What a great warm welcome we've had here and a real understanding of what the oldest football club in the world is about. We're not just promoting and protecting football in England but also pushing it around emerging nations. The once great nations of football probably aren't so great anymore, so it's time for change.
Which is the most important message that you take around the world on your travels?
The values of the game and the way it used to be played long before the English Premier League was thought of, so respecting your heritage, which in Qatar is a very important part of the culture. Football is about developing the emerging countries as well. It is about the grassroots of the game, and remembering that the game is about fun, activities, open to everybody of all age, race, religion or ability, and that's what our club stands for.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) has recently invested into the development of women's football at Sheffield F.C. How has that helped your club?
The investment a few months ago was to help our ladies team. We've now won promotion to the women's Super League in England. Our men's team play in the 7thdivision of English football, but our women's team plays at league level, and we're competing with Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. We are looking to bring our women's team over here and do some grassroots projects and coaching with girls in Qatar. I've been talking to Hassan Al Thawadi for a number of years now, and they visited Sheffield two years ago. Hassan is a unique character with brilliant vision. He understands what we are trying to do, which not everybody does especially in the world of the Premier League, and it is nice to have that link with him since he studied at Sheffield University.
Could you explain a little about the club's Charitable Foundation onto which Hassan Al-Thawadi has been invited as honorary Vice President?
The Foundation has been set up to preserve and protect the history and values of football and promote grassroots participation and women in football. We hope that the appointment of Hassan Al-Thawadi will encourage other influential leaders in world football to become involved in our project, including relocating the football club back into the original ground at Olive Grove and building a small stadium and museum where football was born in 1857. Aston Villa was the first English Premier Club to have joined us by donating £1874, the club's foundation year. We would encourage other clubs to come help support the grassroots of the game at the original home of football.