AFTER fielding a team at the 2006 Doha Asian Games, nothing much was heard about the sport in the country. Mostly confined to the corridors of Doha Rugby Football Centre, it gained ground only after the formation of Qatar Rugby Federation (QRF) last year.
And thanks to its president Yousef Jeham Al Kuwari, who played for semi-professional American Football side Colorado Cougars during his college days there, the Qatar 7s League was started this year with seven teams. The QRF had hosted the Asian Championship Division 3 in April, which Qatar won, and that further boosted the sport’s profile.
In an exclusive interview with Doha Stadium Plus, Al Kuwari spoke about the sport’s challenges and its future.
Even though Qatar fielded a team at the Doha Asian Games, it took another 10 years to form the QRF…
Though the QRF was formed only last year, the sport was played in Qatar well before the Asian Games in 2006, with the Doha Rugby Football Centre taking an active role since 1974. In between, our teams had been competing in some tournaments, like the West Asia Rugby 7 for clubs and national teams. We’re now one of the most active members in Asia Rugby. We’ll do our best to help the sport thrive.
What’re the challenges faced by the federation?
We’re working on a shoestring budget. Given the current economic slowdown, we can’t ask for more and hope to manage till 2017. Rugby isn’t a very popular game like other sports. There aren’t many facilities and we hope the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) would help us.
Are there many sponsors?
Winning the Asian event was a big achievement. The promotion to Division 2 will motivate us to do well. I hope the sponsors take a note of this and recognise rugby’s importance.
Is the interest shown by Qataris encouraging?
It’s surprising for me too that a lot of Qataris are showing interest in the sport. Some of them are playing American Football, but they’re keen to switch to rugby because it’s a booming game and much easier. Besides, the sport is getting popular in the region and Gulf countries are working hard to increase the activities.
What’re the positives that you see in Qatar rugby?
We’ve a very good fan base compared to many games, including football. We were really surprised to see a full house during the Asian Championship. The supporters include Qataris and many other nationals. This is a positive sign for the sport’s growth in the country.
What’re the goals of QRF?
We’ll build a strong team for the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. We’re hoping the QOC would extend its support because the sport has a bright future in Qatar. We’ll increase our activities and invite national teams to play friendlies in Doha. DSP