When Qatar’s national team captain Hassan Al Haydos leads his country out on the pitch in a crucial FIFA World Cup™ qualifier in China on 15 November, he will be aiming to bring three vital points back to Doha. It was here in the local neighbourhood of Al Sadd where the 26-year-old striker first began playing the game – on the streets with his friends, and where he says he would relish the chance to play at the 2022 World Cup.
Al Haydos took time out from a busy training schedule before travelling with the team to China PR, speaking with www.sc.qa about what it means to captain his country, coming up against a World Cup-winning coach, playing alongside club team-mate Xavi and more.
**How did you first start out in football; when did you realise you wanted to become a professional?
**Al Haydos: Right from the start as a kid I had a passion and a love for football. At first I played street football in my local neighbourhood in Al Sadd area with my friends. I was a tennis player for a while, but the games with my friends convinced me to focus on football and then I joined Al Sadd Club. From there I was lucky enough to make the first team, I improved my skills with every training session and everything went very quickly from there as I joined the national team. It is a big honour to be the captain of the Qatar national team, and also a big responsibility, especially as we are playing this qualification campaign before hosting the World Cup here in Qatar in 2022.
*How will Qatar approach the game in China on Tuesday? Will it be an attacking strategy to gain all three points? *
For sure it will be a very difficult match against China. We respect their team and the coaching staff a lot. We will bring our own strategy to the game. We won’t force ourselves to attack them all the time, but our coach Jorge Fossati has prepared a special strategy for this game, especially considering that it is a do or die game both for us and for them.
Do you think 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi will be a source of new motivation for China?
Of course Marcello Lippi will give China the motivation and the influence to do better and play a good game. But we will try to win the three points as they are very important to us.
How has it been for you as a striker to receive passes from a player like Xavi for the last two seasons?
As a young kid I couldn’t have imagined that one day I would be receiving passes from a legend and team-mate like Xavi, and Raul before him. It is really an honour to be on the pitch at the same time as him, especially since I am a Barcelona fan. Every weekend we used to see Xavi on TV, and now he’s with us in the training sessions and the matches. We have learned a lot from him, and it’s an honour to have him in the same team.
Do you see yourself finishing your playing career in Qatar, or would you like to play abroad one day?
It would be a dream to play abroad, perhaps in Europe. At the same time I have a contract with Al Sadd, and I really respect that. But why not, maybe one day in the future, you could find me there.
*Finally, what does it mean to you as the captain of Qatar to have the possibility to make the home team in 2022? *
Aside from being a football player, as a Qatari it is an honour to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the most important event in world football. I will try my best to be with the national team in 2022, that would be a dream for me and it is a dream for all the nation of Qatar. All of the stadium projects that I have seen are very nice with fantastic architecture and the latest technology. The community programmes which the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy are putting on are also very good. This tournament will help to create healthier lifestyles locally and get more people participating in sports.