The roar of thousands of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ fans still echoes throughout the country’s streets and stadiums, months after the competition has ended. However, the local love of football, sports and athletics is not a recent phenomenon, but a recurring theme throughout the country’s history.
The 1960s were the start of a burgeoning professionalfootball legacy, with Doha Stadium – Qatar’s first playing grounds – hosting local competitions and international friendlies, including a tussle between Qatar’s Al Ahli and Brazil’s Santos, whose roster included the late Pelé, in ‘73. The stadium was also home to sport royalty, presenting an exhibition boxing match with the greatest of all time in one corner: Muhammad Ali.
But the appetite for sport grew beyond football and the occasional exhibitionist bout, to such a level that Doha Stadium could no longer accommodate the sheer numbers of events or spectators.
And so, in 1976, a new state-of-the-art national stadium was opened as the home of football and athletics. Khalifa Olympic Stadium – later known as Khalifa International Stadium and by Doha-siders simply as Khalifa Stadium – was named in honour of Qatar’s Emir at the time, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani (1932 – 2016).
The stadium’s inaugural event, commemorated by this plaque on display at QOSM, was the 1976 Arabian Gulf Cup, which featured seven teams and 22 matches and was marked by Iraq’s participation for the first time.