Doha, Qatar: The Amir Cup final is as it is the biggest fixture of Qatar’s domestic football calendar, but this year the title clash between top guns Al Sadd and Al Duhail SC has plenty of added significance to draw the attention of football world.
To start with, it is also the unveiling of the state-of-the-art Al Wakrah Stadium, which is going to be the second completed arena for the 2022 World Cup.
The 40,000 capacity stadium, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects in association with AECOM, comes with an innovative cooling system and a retractable roof, among many other features.
The final is also the swansong of Sadd captain Xavi Hernandez, who is a legendary figure in world football after his exploits with Barcelona and Spain national team.
Xavi’s Sadd will start as favourites as they are in sensational form, winning the Qatar Stars League title in some style.
The last time the two teams met, in the league in March, there was nothing to choose between them as a Murad Naji own goal gave Sadd an invaluable point.
The match is also going to be Jesualdo Ferreira's last one at the helm of the Wolves and the Portuguese coach said he hoped Sadd would emerge triumphant.
“I’m very happy that we are taking part in the final. I hope we would do the same what we did before last year (Sadd beat Al Rayyan to win the title in 2017),” said Ferreira at the pre-match press conference.
“We know how important Amir Cup is for Qatar and the people here. This final will be historic because we are playing in a World Cup finals venue. We are facing defending champions and we will go all out for victory,” said the veteran coach.
Gabi, the other Spanish star in Sadd’s midfield, echoed his coach’s sentiments that it is special to play in such a historic setting.
“We will be playing at the 2022 World Cup venue, which is great. We have already played Duhail twice this season and we know how difficult it will be. But we want to win the double and also the AFC Champions League, said Gabi.
If it’s the farewell match for Ferreira and Gabi, for Duhail coach Rui Faria it’s the first real opportunity to win something big is his maiden year as coach.
Faria, who has been the assistant to Jose Mourinho during the Portuguese manager’s time at a host of top clubs, has not had a dream start to his career as a head coach, and would love to win the prestigious trophy which would redeem their season.
“We know the importance to the match. They are an organised team with an experienced coach. But we are ready. We have paid a lot of attention to the details we have trained well for the match and we hope it will end in a good way,” said Ferreira.
“It will be an opportunity for me to win my first title which hopefully would be the first of many. It will be mean a lot to win at the new stadium.”
Faria said Duhail have improved a lot in the recent weeks.
“We all have improved a lot recently and the team is getting stronger. We have faced strong teams and ready to take on Sadd who are a good team.”
Duhail captain Luiz Martin said they respect the opponents, but they will play to win.
“We are very happy to play in the final. Players love to play in such big matches. We have a lot of respect for the opponents and we will do everything to win the cup,” said Martin.
“In the last game, we were unlucky to concede an own goal in injury time. This game is always about important moments. We will concentrate and avoid making mistakes,” added the Duhail captain.