Highlights of events in 2018
The QNB Stars League had many challenges and successes in the year 2018. A new year has dawned and the teams are looking forward to success and glory as ever. All players and clubs hope to achieve what they dream.
The QSL Online takes a look at the high points of 2018.
Al Duhail crowned QNB Stars League champions for sixth time
Al Duhail were crowned as the 2017-18 season QNB Stars League champions on Saturday, the 7th of April, at the Al Duhail Stadium following their 5-2 victory over Al Sailiya in Week 22.
Al Duhail were crowned in the presence of Qatar Football Association (QFA) Vice-President Mr. Saud Abdulaziz Al Mohannadi, QSL CEO Mr. Hani Taleb Ballan and QNB’s Assistant General Manager for Communications Mr. Salim Anzan Al Nuaimi.
It was Al Duhail’s sixth league triumph, having previously emerged as victorious in the 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons as well.
Al Duhail set many records en route to their triumph. They were the only unbeaten side, having registered 19 victories and three draws. That they scored 86 goals and conceded only 27 showed their strength and depth in the squad.
Al Duhail win Qatar Cup
Al Duhail continued to excel by also annexing the Qatar Cup in its fifth edition. They were crowned champions after beating Al Sadd 2-1 in the final match attended by some 12,000 spectators on a big football night. Dignitaries who were present on the occasion were Confederation of African Football President Mr. Ahmad Ahmad, South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) President Mr. Alejandro Dominguez and FIFA chief’s assistant Mr. Matthias Grafstrom among others.
Al Duhail were crowned champions for the second time, having emerged as victorious in the second edition in 2015 under the name of Lekhwiya.
Msakni, Belmadi, Almoez adjudged the best
Many of the country’s football scene graced the Qatar Football Association’s (QFA) end-of-season Awards Ceremony with their presence at the sprawling Qatar National Convention Center within Education City on Thursday, 17th May, 2018. The dignitaries included officials, team managers, coaches and players.
Al Duhail’s Tunisian star Yousef Msakni got the most number of votes to be adjudged the best player. QFA Vice-President Mr. Saud Abdulaziz Al Mohannadi handed over the award to the club’s vice-president Mr. Khalifa Khamis Al Sulaiti as Msakni was recuperating in the US after a surgery.
Djamel Belmadi was deservingly voted as the best coach for brilliantly guiding Al Duhail to their sixth league title. Al Arabi club star Abdullah Saad Al Sulaiti honoured the Algerian.
Qatar international and Al Duhail striker Almoez Ali bagged the Best Under-23 Player Award for the second year in a row. Ex-Al Rayyan and Qatar international goalkeeper Younis Ahmed gave away the prize to Almoez.
Al Duhail striker Yousef El Arabi bagged the Mansour Muftah Award for the top scorer for a second successive time. The Moroccan had 26 goals to his credit. Former Qatar international Mubarak Mustafa awarded El Arabi.
Abdullah Al Athba, Taleb Salem Al Marri and Khalid Eid were adjudged the Best Referees for their outstanding officiating. The award was first instituted in the 2016-17 season in honour of the referees. Former Qatar international and media personality Badr Bilal handed over the award.
The Salah Saqr Ramadan Tournament, which began 44 years ago as an amateur summer event, won the Football for All Award. Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy Assistant Secretary General for Tournament Affairs Mr. Nasser Al Khater handed over the award to Salah Saqr Al Boenain, the organiser of the tournament.
2018-19 season launch
A Press conference was held at the W Hotel to mark the season launch, in the presence of QSL’s Executive Director of Marketing, Sales and Communications Mr. Hassan Rabia Al Kuwari, Director of Competitions Department Mr. Ahmed Al Adsani and Security Department official Captain Mubarak Bilal Al Ali.
Early start to the league
The new season began early because of the Qatar national team’s preparations for the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE. Some clubs strengthened their ranks with star players, such as Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o (Qatar SC), Spaniard Gabi Fernandez (Al Sadd) and Dutchman Nigel de Jong (Al Ahli).
Al Rayyan recruiting former Al Arabi and Al Sadd player Khalfan Ibrahim was one of the other notable signings by clubs.
The QNB Stars League kicked off on the 4th of August.
Strong participation in AFC Champions League
That four clubs — Al Duhail, Al Sadd, Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa — represented Qatar in this year’s AFC Champions League spoke volumes for the strength of professional football in the country.
Al Duhail, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan qualified for the group stage, while Al Gharafa booked their berth through play-off. Al Sadd and Al Duhail reached the quarterfinals.
Al Sadd went on to qualify for the semifinals, where they bowed out to Iran’s Persepolis.
Al Sadd’s ace Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah scored two goals against Al Shahania in Week 15 of the QNB Stars League to take his personal tally to 28 goals. In the process, he became the Qatar league’s all-time top scorer in a single season. He surpassed Brazilian striker Clemerson Soares’ record of 27 goals set in the 2007-08 season for Al Gharafa.
Bounedjah went on to score another goal in their 3-1 victory over Al Duhail, a match which was rescheduled from Week 9.
Abdulkarim Hassan best in Asia
Al Sadd’s Qatar international Abdulkarim Hassan was named the 2018 Asian Footballer of the Year at the annual AFC Awards held in Muscat, Oman, on the 28th of November.
The young left-back received the award from AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa at a ceremony, attended by many dignitaries.