AL GHARAFA kept faith in Kosai Hatem for the 11th season, probably the longest stint for a foreign coach in any Qatari club.
The Iraqi had helped them to a domestic treble four seasons ago. Soft-spoken, yet a tough task master, Hatem has been able to strike a chord with his players, guiding several juniors like Abdulrahman Saad who made it to the senior ranks.
Gharafa won the Qatar League in 2013-14, but could not repeat the feat in the following seasons. They finished second last year, losing to Al Rayyan in the final.
Hatem’s men, who are second behind El Jaish in the standings, will complete their league engagement with a match against the soldiers on March 3.
“We’ll try to win this time. Gharafa are rated very high for the last couple of seasons. We want to live up to that status,” Hatem told Doha Stadium Plus.
Excerpts from the interview.
What’s the reason behind Gharafa’s consistency?
We play as a team and believe in hard work. We’ve a good mix of junior and international players. Among foreigners, Sammy Monroe Jr helped us win difficult matches. Besides, my chemistry with players has enabled us to build a squad, that takes pride in its strong mentality.
Do you think Gharafa can win this time?
We’re keeping our fingers crossed. We came close to clinching the title in the last couple of seasons, but somehow failed. The team plays with a lot of motivation. Unfortunately, our players have been running out of steam towards the end. We need to address this issue.
Besides, there’s always the luck factor. Otherwise, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t win.
What’s your achievement as a coach?
I don’t claim to have done enough as a coach, but I’ve been able to create a competitive atmosphere. People say we’re the best defensive side. We take pride in it and hope to continue with our good work. If you ask me about achievement, I think basketball has become very popular at our club. It couldn’t have been possible without the support of our management and fans.
How difficult will it be to beat Jaish?
Jaish are still unbeaten in the competition. It shows their strength. They’ve been impressive in both defence and attack. They had beaten us 87-78 in the first phase. But if we play our game, I hope we can win the return leg. Even teams like Rayyan and Al Arabi are difficult opponents.