The Qatar Cup volleyball final, featuring holders Al Arabi Club and Al Rayyan Club, is expected to be a blockbuster with both the teams armed with plenty of talent and strike force.
The match is scheduled at the Al Arabi Club Indoor Hall at 6.30 pm and carries QR300,000 for the champions. The losers will earn QR150,000.
Any Cup match or final is much different from the League matches. The participating teams are allowed two professionals as against only one during the League and this factor has made both the teams not only strong but has turned the title clash into a complex and suspenseful affair.
Al Arabi, who beat El Jaish and won the Qatar Cup last season, are fielding Kenyan star Philip Maiyo and Cuban Yadrian Escobar Silva, while Al Rayyan’s attack will be led by Jan Stokr and Cristian Savani.
Czech Stokr, the best opposite in the world, had played for Al Arabi last season and was declared the MVP, while leading the team to the Emir Cup victory against Police in the final.
Savani, the son-in-law of Al Arabi coach Ljubomir Travica, is an Italian star with vast experience of top-flight volleyball. Twice he helped Italy win the Olympic Games silver and bronze medals (2004 and 2014), besides having three FIVB World League medals to his credit.
Maiyo has been regular for Al Arabi in his second season. He helped them win the QVA Cup and Super Cup earlier this year. Sileva and Maiyo have power-packed spikes but Al Arabi’s strength lies in their all-round ability.
Al Arabi’s captain Juma Faraj is a dependable blocker. Saif Lemjid is an intelligent setter. Renan Ribeiro has a strong defence and Abderrahman Bologay has given a good account of himself as a libero. Middle players Ibrahim Mohamed and Thiago da Silva may change the game around with their solid blocks.
Al Rayyan have also some experienced specialists. Apart from Savani and Stokr, Mubarak Dahi Waleed is an animated character and can lift his team with blocks and spikes from the middle. Libero Said Suliman is a strong retriever.
However, the ball setting looks to be one department in which Al Rayyan are not as strong as Al Arabi. This may prove their Achilles heel. So lifters Ali Asadi and Andre Luiz will have quite a role to play for their team.
This season both have clashed three times and Al Arabi acquitted a 2-1 edge as they beat Al Rayyan 3-2 during the first round of the League and in the newly-introduced Super Cup. Al Rayyan’s lone 3-1 win over Al Arabi came during their second leg in the League en route to the title.
But a much bigger success came for Al Rayyan last month when they emerged as the best club in the GCC tournament, despite having lost a match to Qatar’s Police team.
During a pre-final press conference, Al Arabi’s coach Travica, captain Juma Faraj, Maiyo and Silva were present. Al Rayyan were represented by coach Daniele Bagnoli, Stokr, Savani and captain Ali Ishaq.
Ishaq said,”I expect a difficult final. The two teams that have won lots of titles and own a strong record in Qatar are in the final. This is a very prestigious cup and my team will try our best to win the second title of the domestic season.”
Faraj commented about his team and the final,”Al Rayyan are in good form. Recently, they have won the GCC title. We’re ready for this important match and will try to keep the cup for another year.”
Savani and Stokr also expressed hopes that the final is surely going to be a difficult and exciting match and they are optimistic as their team is both tough and experienced.
Al Arabi’s Maiyo said,”The Qatar Cup is not only important for Al Arabi or Al Rayyan but also for the Qatari volleyball. The two best Qatari teams are clashing in the final and may the better one win the final.”
Al Arabi coach Travica, who has replaced Adel Senoun recently, said,”I am happy to be back in Qatar. Also I’m happy that my team is in the final of the Qatar Cup, which is important for everybody. There is no doubt that the final will be strong and interesting.”
Al Rayyan coach Bagnoli said,”Al Arabi defeated Al Rayyan in the Super Cup and we’ll try to reverse that. We won the GCC Cup and then the League. It is an important match for his team and we’ll fight to win it too.”
He also said,”The season in Qatar is very challenging. Lots of matches are played during a short period. Only one court is holding most the matches and it has become very hard, which is not good for the players.”
QVA Executive Director Ahmed al Sheebani replied that the association has already requested the Qatar Olympic Committee for a new court and it’d be changed soon. He also said the profile of the Qatar volleyball is fast improving due to the presence of big names.”Earlier, we used to have only star players but now we started to have world famous coaches also. This has added a lot of value to our volleyball.”