Qatar Clasico: one of the biggest football matches in the Middle East


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When the term “football rivals” is mentioned, you might think of Barcelona and Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool or Paris St Germain and Marseille. But what if you were told there was a rivalry you might not have heard of? The match between Al-Rayann and Al Sadd is now known to many in the Gulf as the “Qatar Clasico”.

The two teams recently faced off in the Amir Cup final and FOOTBALL NOW attended the flagship event in Doha. The competition was, until 2019, known as the Emir of Qatar Cup, named after the ruler of the country.

The first tournament was won by Al Ahli in 1972/73, one of the 2021 finalists, Al Sadd, holding the record for most wins. But could they add to their tally here?

This year, the tournament has arguably generated more interest than ever, mainly due to the upcoming World Cup. But legendary names such as Al-Rayann coach and former World Cup winner Laurent Blanc and Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez in one of his last matches as Al Sadd’s coach, before joining FC Barcelona, ​​added to the interest.

But it was not just the coaches who helped put this game in the spotlight. James Rodriguez’s move to Al-Rayann in September sparked a lot of excitement in Qatar following his departure from Premier League side Everton.

“It’s a big signing for Al-Rayann.” Says Colombian football writer Carl Worswick.

“Probably the biggest name coming from Colombia, he is at the center of the debates on all Colombian football networks. He has not played for the Colombian national team for a year, and he is truly one of the main ones. news almost every day. “

The teams entered the match in a contrasting form. After winning their first six games of the season, Al Sadd was naturally confident as a Laurent Blanc under pressure aimed to help Al-Rayann out of a slump that had seen him win only one in his last eight games.

Despite the big accumulation, it was not until the 44th minute for the first key element of the action. Al-Rayann captain Yacine Brahimi converted a penalty after Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb knocked Yohan Boli into the box.

After early domination in the second half, it was Al Sadd’s turn to secure a penalty after Rayyan defender Dame Traore crushed Boualem Khoukhi in the box. Former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla used his experience to tie the score.

It would stay that way until full time. After two penalties in the first 90 minutes, a shootout would decide the 2021 Amir Cup final. Four perfect shots on goal followed from both sides, but after Shojae Khalilzadeh missed Al-Rayann’s all-important fifth goal, it was up to Jung Woo-Young to convert the winning penalty. He wasn’t wrong, winning the draw against Al Sadd and sending half of Al Thumama Stadium into a frenzy of crazy celebrations. Al Sadd would add to their already impressive trophy cabinet.

For Xavi, it was the perfect way to end his first foray into management. Qatar Clasico will be remembered for their penalty drama on the pitch, but what about off the pitch? With big names and 40,000 passionate supporters in attendance, the 2021 Amir Cup final is proof that football in this part of the world is thriving ahead of the 2022 World Cup.


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