From Qatar’s maiden win at the Asian Cup to Iran allowing women to attend a men’s football match after decades, there was plenty to celebrate and talk about.
As we reach the finish line for 2019, Al Jazeera takes a look back at some of the most notable sporting moments in the region.
1. Qatar wins first Asian football title
In a tournament that was played against the backdrop of a regional political dispute, Qatar’s national football team defied odds and exceeded expectations at the AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier this year.
The Maroons stunned four-time champions Japan 3-1 in the final on February 1 to lift their maiden trophy at the continental tournament.
They also beat Saudi Arabia, Iraq, South Korea and hosts UAE en route to the title.
Qatari striker Almoez Ali set an Asian Cup record of nine goals to go home with the best player award.
2. BeoutQ: Saudi-Qatar piracy row
Off the field, a two-year-old broadcasting row between Qatar’s beIN Sports and a Saudi pirate channel beoutQ deepened.
A number of football bodies – including football’s world governing body FIFA and Europe’s UEFA – pursued legal action in Saudi Arabia against the pirate outfit.
In September, an Al Jazeera Arabic investigation revealed the exact location of beoutQ’s headquarters in the al-Qirawan district of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Since 2017, beIN Media Group, which holds exclusive rights to broadcast major international sports events to the MENA region, has fallen victim of beoutQ, which has been stealing its signal by broadcasting it as its own, complete with superimposed on-air logos.
3. Golden year for Liverpool’s Salah
It was a memorable year for English football club Liverpool as well as its star striker Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian footballer reached a landmark feat of 50 Premier League goals for his team, becoming the eighth Liverpool player to join the elite club.
But his half-century arrived in only 69 games, three fewer than Fernando Torres, the previous quickest to the mark.
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) December 21, 2019
The 27-year-old also steered the Reds to their sixth European Champions League title in June and their first FIFA Club World Cup trophy in Qatar in December.
4. Algeria wins Africa Cup of Nations
In July, Algeria’s national football team ended a 29-year dry spell to triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations for a second time.
5. Tunisian tennis player Ons Jabeur’s rise
Tunisia‘s Ons Jabeur reached a career-high ranking of 51, the highest for any Arab female tennis player.
The 25-year-old Tunis resident also made the third round of the US Open in September, equalling her best performance at the Grand Slam level.
6. Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim bags high jump gold
Qatari athlete Mutaz Essa Barshim successfully defended his high jump title at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha.
It was the first time the international biennial competition was held in the Middle East.
The event also featured a challenging debut for the midnight marathon, which saw 28 women runners and 18 males failing to finish the race under intense heat and high humidity levels.
7. Iranian women attend historic football match
For the first time in nearly 40 years, Iranian women were allowed to freely attend a men’s football match in the capital, Tehran.
More than 3,000 female fans watched from a special women-only section in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium as their national men’s team beat Cambodia 14-0 in a World Cup qualifying match
The doors were opened a month after the death of Iranian female football fan Sahar Khodayari, dubbed “Blue Girl” because of the colours of the club she supported.
The 29-year-old died of her wounds after setting herself on fire outside a Tehran court upon learning she could be imprisoned for attempting to sneak into a stadium disguised as a man.
8. Bahrain’s handball team qualifies for Tokyo 2020
For the first time, Bahrain‘s men’s handball team qualified for the Summer Olympic Games, which will take place in Tokyo next year.
They beat South Korea 34-29 in the final of the Asian handball qualifications to book their spot.
This is the first Olympic qualification in any team sport for the island nation.
9. Egyptian squash players crowned world champions
Egypt continued its dominance on the squash courts, with world number two Nour El Sherbini capturing her fourth world title in Cairo and Tarek Momen winning the men’s event in Doha.
World number one Ali Farag from Egypt won five tournaments, including his second US Open title in October.
Egypt also defeated England to retain their men’s World Team Squash Championships title in Washington, DC.
10. Arabian Gulf Cup: Maiden trophy for Bahrain
In December, underdogs Bahrain won the Arabian Gulf Cup, hosted by Qatar, for the first time in the regional football tournament’s 49-year history.
They knocked out 10-times winner Kuwait and a higher-ranked Iraqi side before victory against three-times champion Saudi Arabia in the final in Doha.
There was extra attention on the biennial eight-nation tournament this year after teams from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE reversed a previous decision to boycott the event over a two-year-old diplomatic dispute with the hosts.
Despite airspace restrictions, in place since June 2017, teams from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain reportedly flew in directly to Doha.
Planeloads of Bahraini football fans also arrived, flying via Kuwait, ahead of their team’s semi-final and final.