World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels
The tournament in Russia in 2014 is still the only major football competition that has been held in the Middle East.
The Qataris don’t have a team that’s been able to attract the attention of European and South American rivals, and as a result, their most popular sport is the one that’s going to be seen more and more: camel racing.
Hassan Al Jassim, a young Saudi sportswoman, came to Moscow to watch a camel race that had been organised by the Russian team.
“There are two races going on when I was at the stadium,” she told Al Jazeera.
“One of them was for purebred, and the other race was for camels that had to breed. We were just watching the camels.”
She had never heard of the sport, which is thought to have been invented in the 19th century by French-Moroccan poet Hassan Al-Jassim.
“The camel is a very strong animal, is the strongest animal in the world,” Al Jassim said. “It can run very fast and it can take a lot of blows, and it can do great things.”
Jassem, of Saudi nationality, is a member of Qatar’s national team, and she travelled to Russia to watch the competition as part of her training.
In April, Qatar got its first taste of Europe and South America, when the Qatari national team played in the 2014 European Championship in which the team managed to draw with Belgium in the first group stage match.
Since then, however, a drought has struck Qatar’s international football scene – their last international victory was with the national team in a friendly against Lebanon three years ago.
Qatar was forced to make a number of changes to the squad during the preparation for the World Cup, mainly to try and get the team out of its slump.
“The competition that the team was going to played in was the European Championship. The team was going to play in Egypt, Morocco, and Morocco. The three countries that we were going to meet were Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. And then we decided to change the tournament, to go to Russia,” Qatari football manager, Khaled Al-Jabbar, told Al Jazeera.
“So we were playing three matches in three