The Qatar Stars League was founded in 1963, and it is the highest league in Qatar. The second league in rank is called Qatargas League, and it is very important since each season a club is being relegated to the lower-in-rank league to make room for a new team which wins the promotions during qualification rounds. The best-known club of this League is Al Saad Sports Club with the most gold medals in the League. The team won the national championship for 12 times, but the last championship belonged to another team which is the current title holder, and they are the Lekhwiya SC.
The League encompassed fourteen teams and played its first season in 1963 when founded, but officially, it started from 1972 when the first official season took place.
The League includes four cups on a seasonal basis which are:
- Emir of Qatar Cup
- Qatar Crown Prince Cup
- Sheikh Jassem Cup
- Qatari Stars Cup
All teams of the first and second division can take part in the Emir of Qatar Cup, whereas the Qatar Crown Prince Cup is only reserved for the top four division teams which play after the season ended. The Qatari Star Cup is played on a round -robin basis and all each team plays against each team, and it is held at mid-season, whereas the Sheikh Jassem Cup is a kind of intro for the first division regular season.
How is the League Structured?
Two divisions are part of the finest Qatar League. The first division consists of 14 teams, and the second of 18 teams in total. When the regular season ends, the four best teams have the honor to compete in the Qatar Crown Prince Cup which was established in the mid-1990's.
The number of clubs was not always 14 in the top League, but it gradually expanded from ten over 12 to finally introduce 12 clubs in 2012/2013. The second division was extended to 18 clubs accordingly, and it basically represents the back-up teams of the first division. Four amateur leagues are also part of Qatari football.
As already stated, the first unofficial season was played in 1963 which was precede by establishing the Qatar Football Association three years prior to that. It was the time when the second division was also set-up, but back then, the League did not rely on promotion or relegation of teams. It took ten more years to formalize the whole procedure when in 1973 the first official season was opened. The strongest club Qatar SC won the first championship and many others in the following years.
The first playoff for the Championship saw the light of the day in 1980. Only one year later, the QFA (Qatar Football Association) introduced the relation-promotion system, classifying five teams into the second division. And again the relegation-promotion system was put to a hold during the 1984/1985 season when the most of the players where playing for the national team which was preparing for qualification games in the FIFA World Cup of 1986.
In order to draw the attention of more audience, the QFA made a new rearrangement in 1995 when it introduced the system of penalty-shoots for all games which ended in a tie. Still, this rule lasted only for one season and was withdrawn the next season.
Some football stars rose to fame when they were promoted to the first division of the league, like Ahmed Al Kuwari, Fahad Al Kuwari, and Hamad Al Khalifa who became real national football stars during the 1990's. But promoting football players from the second to the first division was not carried out without consequences. Namely, three second division teams were dissolved for that reason. And again, this further led to abolishing promotion-relegation for the next five seasons. And in 1995, the second division was again set up with only five teams, which was the half the first division teams.
Again in 2009, relegation was disabled since it would have caused dissolution of two second division clubs which would result in a smaller second division of only 6 clubs.
Still, the popularity of Qatar football was not where the QFA has envisioned, so they turned to incentives of $10,000,000 per team which were supposed to recruit and buy new international players. Finally, this plan worked, and some of the famous names like Gabriel Batistuta and others appeared on the football court wearing Qatari jerseys and playing for Qatari teams which immediately increased the football’s popularity among common Qataris.
Qatar puts a lot of effort to promote football not only in its country but also internationally, so the QFA formed also the Aspire Academy giving young people the opportunity to play and train football under high-class conditions and in great facilities. The Aspire Academy produced already some of the most distinguishing players for the Qatar Star League, e.g. Ibrahim Majid, Saad Al Sheeb, etc. It seems that it was the right move in order to produce national talents, and as long as in the developing phase, Qatar can always import players from abroad.
The Qatar Star League was known for a long time as the Q-League, but for better promotion, it was renamed to Qatar Star League in 2003. Qatar takes great care of its international image and has high aspirations in the sports sector, especially football, which is also visible from the big investments in international players, many of whom are now part of the Qatari football teams for a lot of money.