Flamenco in Qatar: This week in Middle East football

Qatar puts its faith in Asian Cup-winning Spanish coach for the 2022 World Cup
4 min read
08 May, 2019
Qatar has announced that Felix Sanchez will extend his contract until the 2022 World Cup in the country.
Qatar are planning for the 2022 World Cup [Getty]
Qatar is looking to Spanish football as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup. With a number of young stars in the making, Spanish coach Felix Sanchez could be just the man to continue Qatar's ascendency following the country's historic Asian Cup win in the UAE earlier this year.

Meanwhile, one Palestinian club is having to make a roundabout trip to play an AFC cup game against Lebanese club al-Nejmeh.

Xavi and Felix in Qatar

Qatar is putting its faith in Spanish football legends for the future of football in the country. On Monday, the Qatari FA announced that Felix Sanchez, the head coach of the Annabi - the Qatari national team - has extended his contract until the 2022 World Cup, which Doha will host.

Sanchez has guided Qatar to immense successes in recent years, remarkably winning the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE against all the odds.

Sanchez has worked with the current Qatari football generation through the Aspire Academy, the under-19, 20, and 23s making him a natural pick for the role of national team coach.

Despite rumours that the Qatari FA were looking to land a big name coach for the 2022 World Cup, the magnificent work Sanchez has put into this talented squad has been acknowledged by football directors.

Yet, Sanchez is not the only Spaniard to commit his future with Qatari football. Xavi Hernandez, a Barcelona legend and Al-Sadd's midfielder in the past four seasons, will hang up his boots at the end of 2018/19, but he is likely to take the coaching post at his Doha based club.

Although no official announcement has been made by the player or club about this prospect, Hernandez was instrumental to leading Al-Sadd to victory this season in the Qatar Stars League.

One thing is sure: with Sanchez and Xavi in the helm, Qatar's football future is looking a lot more promising.

Al-Quds' Revenge

Being a Palestinian football club is never easy. If your game isn't interrupted by the Israeli army, other teams in the Arab world have refused to play in the occupied West Bank, saying it is an act of "normalisation" with Israel.

Hilal Al-Quds, the Palestinian champions, have faced both these obstacles with Lebanese club Nejmeh refusing to play them at the West Bank's Faisal Husseini Stadium in the AFC Cup.

Although Hilal insisted the game will take place at their home stadium, Nejmeh's officials are determined not to play in the West Bank. The AFC solution was playing the two games - plus the game between Hilal and Syrian Al-Jaish - in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

This would mean the Palestinian team would have to travel from Jerusalem, through the West Bank, then Jordan before going on to Saudi Arabia - before playing three matches in one week.

After a draw against Al-Jaish Hilal they managed to beat Nejmeh 2-1 in the first game. While the Lebanese were guaranteed to take back some points at the second leg, the Palestinians had different plans.

From the 37th minute, Hilal were playing with ten men and in the second-half conceded after only eight minutes following a half-volley from Ali Hammam. But the Jerusalemites did not give up. Oday Dabbagh equalised in the 78th minute, and two minutes into stoppage-time he completed a brace and Hilal won the match 2-1.

End of an Era 

Bnei Sakhnin, the only Palestinian club in the Israel Premier League, were relegated after 12 years this weekend, following a 3-0 loss to Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Sakhnin are the most prominent Arab team in Israeli football history, having won the State Cup in 2003/4 and over the past two decades becoming a regular member of the Premier League.

The past season was a horrific one for the club with no less than six (!) coaches, none of whom were able them could to reverse the fortunes of the team, who have been poorly managed since the start of the season.

Now, the team hope to bounce back as fast as they can, but in the meantime they will face other strong Palestinian sides such as Hapoel Umm Al-Fahm and Sports Club Kafr Qassem.

CAF is North African

In some of a tradition for the CAF club competitions the finals will be an all-North African one. Esperance de Tunis will face Wydad Casablanca in the Champions League final, while Zamalek will face debutants Berkane in the CAF Confederation Cup Final. Maghreb United.


Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.