FROM time immemorial, the Qatar League had been dominated by Al Arabi and Al Rayyan.
That they have won 34 titles between them (Arabi 25 and Rayyan nine) out of the 37 editions held so far underline their credentials. Qatar Sports Club, who triumphed thrice, were the previous team to break their monopoly.
And as the 38th edition began in October, it was practically difficult to look beyond Arabi and Rayyan. But what unfolded over the last four months was literally stunning.
In a huge shift in power in the domestic scenario, Police shed their ‘eternal bridesmaid’ tag and went on to clinch their maiden Qatar League title.
Police, who had taken an unassailable lead after the penultimate round, capped their triumph by coming back from two sets down to beat Al Arabi 22-25, 19-25, 25-16, 28-26, 15-10 last week.
It was an all-round team effort from the Cops, who won 18 of the 20 matches. They had the likes of Qatar internationals Nadr Aboubacker and Chigbo John in their ranks and were a good mix of youth and experience, with outside hitter Mads Ditlevsen proving to be a revelation.
And breaking from convention, they opted for a foreign coach, Argentinian Damian Arredondo, who marshalled the resources well.
Police had come close to winning the league twice (2011 and 2014) only to finish as the runners-up. They had also ended up third three times (2008, 2010 and 2016).
“The inability to finish close matches used to hurt us in the past. Every year once the league starts, we’re being spoken as one of the title favourites. We play with gusto till January and then somehow tend to lose focus after that,” said team manager Rashed Masoud.
“But it looks like we’ve finally learnt from our mistakes and moved on. I hope this win is the first of the many more to follow. I’m sure we’re going to be a serious force to be reckoned with in the coming years,” he added.
The fact that the last-round match against Arabi was their only game which went to five sets also underlined their domination. With the national team set to play in important tournaments like the FIVB World League (June, various venues) and Asian Championships (July, Indonesia) more Police players may come into the reckoning and that bodes well for a team which has finally shed its ‘chokers’ tag.