4/5/2017 7:51:14 AM

BACK IN THE GROOVE

BACK IN THE GROOVE

AL GHARAFA reigned supreme at the 37th GCC Clubs Championship in Doha last week, underlining Qatar’s growing domination in the region.

In an all-Qatar final played at their own backyard, Gharafa dethroned Al Rayyan 25-20 to clinch their maiden GCC title.

Qatari clubs have dominated the championship in the last few years and Gharafa’s success made sure their supremacy continued for the fourth consecutive year.

Gharafa have always been a force to be reckoned with in Qatar’s domestic scenario. However, the arrival of new teams like El Jaish and El Quiyada pushed them out of the limelight. Their last triumph came in the Qatar League in 2015.

Gharafa captain and goalkeeper Yousuf Al Abdullah saw the victory as a good omen.

“Hopefully this win will change our fortunes. Our players have got their winning mentality back. We’ve been coming closer to winning tournaments, but somehow we’ve not been able to finish it off. Now we’ve the confidence back and we’ll stay focused for the upcoming events,” said Yousuf, as he received the trophy from Qatar Media Corporation Chairman Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani. 

Gharafa had many other heroes like Ahmed Abdelhak, Chadhli Guizani and Hamad Al Hajri during their successful campaign in the nine-day tournament.

But Yousuf, who was the national team’s second choice during the World Championship in France earlier this year, was a revelation as he led from the front. His towering presence in the goal was a big plus point for them.

Gharafa opened their campaign with an upset 29-22 win against Asian champions Al Noor of Saudi Arabia.

That was followed by a fairly easy 24-19 victory against the UAE’s Al Sharjah.

The only match in which they were stretched was the last group tie against Bahrain’s Al Ahli, which ended in a 23-23 stalemate. Had it not been for Yousuf’s brilliant saves, Gharafa would have lost to Ahli, who are the most successful club in the championship’s history with eight crowns. 

In the semifinal, Gharafa downed another Bahraini club BarBar 35-33.

The form book was in favour of Rayyan in the title clash, but Gharafa, egged on by home fans, proved too tough on the day.

The teams will meet again in a decisive Qatar League tie on Friday and coach Shawky Kasim was happy to have fired the first salvo.

“This is certainly a big morale booster for us ahead of the league match. Now, we certainly have an edge over them. Team work was the key to our victory and we hope to keep it up,” the Tunisian said. 

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