Qatar Stars League set to shine brightly
With the Qatar Stars League set to get underway tomorrow, FIFA.com takes a look at what the coming season will bring.
Changing the equation
Last season’s champions Lekhwiya radically altered the balance of power in the Qatari game, knocking Al Gharrafa from the number one spot that they had claimed for the past three seasons, and managing it in their debut campaign in the premier division. The country's traditional heavyweights will certainly take Lekhwiya seriously this season, while less successful outfits will take heart from their example and believe that anything is possible.
The great unknown
Since Qatar SC won the 2002/03 season, the title had been divided between the league’s two giants, Al Gharrafa, who claimed five championships and Al Sadd, with three. Lekhwiya then threw out the form-book by breaking the longstanding duopoly.
Training and transfers
Preparations have been intense in the run-up to this season, all 12 teams setting up training camps and playing games in Europe to ensure they are in prime form before returning to take part in the traditional pre-season tournament, the Sheikh Jassem Cup.
This year’s transfers have been particularly noteworthy, with deals being made right up until the last minute. Starting with Lekhwiya, the title-holders have bolstered their back line with the acquisition of Algerian international and Glasgow Rangers defensive rock, Madjid Bougherra and snapped up Iraq star midfielder Nashat Akram.
Al Gharrafa meanwhile have gone with two Brazilian playmakers, former international Ze Roberto and striker Edmilson, in addition to Iran’s Mohammad Khalatbari.
Last season’s sixth-placed Al Sadd will be hoping their new Senegalese signing, striker Mamadou Niang, can give them the attacking edge they need to return to the top.
A plethora of signings by sides further down the table suggests that this season will be one to look forward to. Umm Salal have brought in Algerian international and former Lazio midfielder Mourad Meghni, alongside Syrian star Firas Al Khatib who joins them from Kuwait side Al Qadissiyah.
A pair of key arrivals strengthen Al Ahli in the form of Sweden’s Christian Wilhemsson, on loan from Saudi side Al Hilal, and Moroccan Hichem Aboucherouane. Al Wakrah have gone for power up front by signing the Iraq national team’s attacking duo of Younis Mahmoud and Alaa Abdul Zahra, plus Dutch defender Said Boutahar from Spanish outfit Real Zaragoza.
Qatar SC have added Uzbekistan international Jasur Hasanov to their books, Al Arabi have brought in Iranian defender Hadi Aghili and Morocco’s Mohammed Chihani, while Al Khor have lured Euzebiusz Smolarek from Polonia Warsaw.
The sheer quality of football on display in the Stars League has won Qatari football many supporters from the Arab world in recent years. A low proportion of goalless draws combined with packed and vocal stadiums have made Qatar the league to watch in west Asia for many fans of the beautiful game.
387 – The number of goals scored in last season’s championship, at an average of 2.9 goals per game.
“I spoke to the players before the start of last season and told them we’ve only got one goal. They thought I was crazy when I said we wanted to win the league, but I explained to them that we had all the ingredients we need to do it,” Djamal Belmadi, coach of champions Lekhwiya.
Have your say
Which team do you think will win the Qatar Stars League this season?