Defending champions and Doha giants Al Sadd will host Al Wakrah in the new season’s first football match on August 21 at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, it was announced yesterday.
On the same day, last year’s runners-up Al Duhail will play Qatar SC at Al Janoub Stadium.
Al Sadd, now coached by their former skipper and ex-Barcelona star Xavi, last year dominated the QNB Stars League with top results under coach Jesualdo Ferreira.
Also yesterday, Qatar Stars League (QSL) confirmed that two 2022 FIFA World Cup venues - Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium and the new Al Janoub Stadium - will be used for the first five rounds of the regular football season.
Both these venues will use state-of-the-art cooling technology that allows football action under any weather condition.
Al Janoub Stadium was inaugurated with much fanfare by the Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani when the Amir Cup final was played between Al Duhail and Al Sadd on May 16. FIFA President Gianni Infantino was also present to watch the match won by Al Duhail.
QSL said match venues for round six and beyond will be determined ‘after coordination with the Ministry of Culture and Sports following periodic maintenance of the stadiums’.
“The early start to the season has been planned keeping in view the busy football season in Qatar where the 24th Gulf Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup will be held this year,” a post on QSL’s website said yesterday.
Qatar will host the region’s most popular national team event - the Gulf Cup - from November 27 to December 9, it was announced during a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation (AGCFF) last week.
Early last month, world governing body, FIFA gave the hosting rights of the annually-staged Club World Cup to Qatar for the next two years. The event will be staged in December with exact dates yet to be confirmed.
Hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar will now look forward to hosting UEFA champions Liverpool and six other continental champions for the two-week football festival.
The early start to the season will also allow Asian champions Qatar to assemble and play 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifying matches set to be begin in September this year.
In other matches of round 1 of the QNB Stars League, Al Gharafa will take on Al Shahaniya on August 22 while on the same day Al Sailiya face Al Khor. The next day, Al Arabi take on Al Ahli and Al Rayyan face Umm Salal.
All of the QNB Stars League outfits are currently camped across various places in Europe for pre-season training. Most of the sides will return to Doha in the second week of August with a few scheduled to land in Qatar in the third week.