WAFF - West Asia Football Championships 2000 to 2014
The West Asia Football Championships is a tournament which takes place every two years on average, with Iran winning four of the eight competitions so far and Iraq, Kuwait, Syria & Qatar all picking up the trophy once too. In the West Asian area, there are 15 teams who have participated, including Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Founded in 2000, the West Asian Football Federation has increasingly expanded, with Qatar joining the region after being invited in 2009, and was awarded the hosting of the Championships which took place earlier this year, allowing the 2022 World Cup hosts to test the cooling technology in the Jassim Bin Hamad 10,000-seater stadium.
These West Asian Football Championships provide the players with key development in big tournaments which would be essential if the region eventually wants to break onto the World Cup scene, such as the dominance of Iran as the most successful team in the Championships and also the only representative for the region in the most recent World Cup in Brazil.
Prince Ali, the man who set up the West Asian Championships, feels that in order for younger players to break into European leagues, they need to perform on a bigger scale which the Championship provides.
For example, Boualem Khoukhi scored six goals earlier in the tournament this year and is known to be a pacey winger, yet won the golden boot for the tournament as he helped Qatar win their first ever West Asian Championship. Or Mustafa Karim who is an Iraqi striker who can score with either foot, and has scored 107 goals in 185 appearances, and has picked up numerous accolades such as best foreign player in the Egyptian League when he played in 2007.
Qatar also have used the West Asian Football Championship as a way of fulfilling their ethos to become a top destination for sporting activity. A Chief Operating Office at Qatar, Mohammed Al Kuwari praised the Qatari FA for investing money in the region, including a rise in prize money for the Championships which has increased from $100,000 to $600,000 for the winning team. Al Kuwari stated, “Sponsoring the Championship’s prize money demonstrates our commitment to encourage sports and be part of the State of Qatar’s efforts to be one of the World’s leading sports destinations.”
An interesting point about the West Asian Football Championship, in an area which is repeatedly talked about in the news as a backwardly democratic region, is the advancement of Women’s football in the area. Since 2005, there have been five Championships held, with the Jordanian Women’s team winning the trophy on three occasions. Even though there are only 10 countries who participate in the Women’s Championship, and is a third less than their male counterparts, the tournament could easily provide a launch-pad for greater access to Women’s football in the area.
Written by Matt Davis