AT THE draw ceremony for the 37th GCC Clubs Championship, Qatar Handball Association (QHA) President Ahmed Mohammed Abdulrab Al Shaabi had casually remarked that if both Qatari clubs Al Gharafa and Al Rayyan were to enter the title clash, it would be a dream final.
Indeed, it turned out to be exactly that as the sides played in front of a packed crowd at the Al Gharafa Sports Club Indoor Hall.
Al Shaabi understandably was a happy man, with the title staying in the country for the fourth consecutive time.
“The triumph of Qatari clubs at the GCC level is a proof that the sport is booming in the country. For the last four years, Qatari sides have won this championship and a lot of efforts have gone into it. Hats off to Gharafa for their maiden win,” said Al Shaabi.
The QHA chief added that Qatar was a strong force at the Asian level as well.
“A Qatari club has triumphed in four of the last five Asian Clubs Championship. This just goes to show that there’s no dearth of talent in the country,” he said.
The emergence of players like Ahmed Abdelhak and Hamad Al Hajri gives the QHA a wider pool to choose while selecting the national team.
After being criticised for excessive naturalisation of players, the QHA changed its strategy and the first sign of it came at the World Championship in France in January when seniors like right-back Zarko Markovic, pivot Borja Vidal and goalkeeper Goran Stojanovic were shown the door and replaced with local talents Mustafa Alkrad, Youssef Ali and Yousuf Al Abdullah.
Though Qatar, coached by Spanish legend Valero Rivera, crashed out in the quarterfinal to Slovenia, the fact that the team comprised largely home-grown players did not go unnoticed.
“Of course, the national team is more balanced now. It isn’t about just one or two clubs. There’s an equal distribution. I’m sure the team is moving in the right path and we’ll see the benefits in near future,” Al Shaabi concluded.