Al Rayyan Club redeemed their disappointing season with a stunning straight-set victory over triple defending champions Al Arabi Club in the prestigious Emir Cup Volleyball Championship final on Saturday.
At the Qatar Women’s Sports Committee Indoor Hall, a venue where Al Rayyan had been tamed by Al Arabi Club in the Qatar Cup final earlier in the month, The Lions turned in a magnificent attack and defence game to forge the 25-20 25-15 36-34 triumph to wild applause of their fans.
Qatar Olympic Committee Vice-President Sheikh Saud bin Ali al Thani presided over the final and presented the trophies and medals to the teams. Also present on the occasion was QVA President Ali Ghanim al Kuwari.
This was the 12th Emir Cup title for Al Rayyan, coming in the 16th final between the two rivals. In all, Al Rayyan Club figured in 24 finals, prior to this one. Previously, Al Arabi Club had beaten Al Rayyan 11 times out of their 21 Emir Cup crowns.
Right from the start, Al Rayyan Club began to launch power-packed smashes through Cuban Oreol Camejo, Serbian Milos Nikic and Dusan Petrovic. At the net, Bairama Fawe and Mubarak Dahi Waleed lent commendable support to the smashers. Once they built up a good lead in the first two sets, it was for them to seal a 2-0 lead.
However, the third marathon set showed true level of two big teams of Qatar as Al Arabi Club battled to stay in the contention and Al Rayyan Club sought to settle it within three sets.
Both teams fired big volleys during the extra points. While it was Camejo and Petrovic mostly for Al Rayyan, Nikic stayed at the back to help the defence. For Al Arabi, German Gyorgy Grozer and Miguel Dalmao, who came into the match late, unleashed the smashes.
Al Arabi had four set points and looked like winning the set and forcing the fourth. But service problems and failure to nail the much-needed point allowed Al Rayyan Club to negate their advantage. Al Rayyan Club also forced their seven match points. In the end, Bairama Faye’s service did the trick.
The tall middle player’s floater first could not be returned by Sander, who was part of the Rio Olympic bronze medal-winning US team last year. Then he somehow managed to direct the next one to setter Seifeddin Elmajid, who lifted it for Dalmau. But Waleed pulled off a brilliant block to complete a massive victory.
Earlier in the season, Al Rayyan Club had lost the Super Cup and Qatar Cup to Al Arabi. Then, they came quite close to winning the Gulf Clubs Championship in Doha but finished third in a dramatic turn-around in the last round-robin league match.
A delighted Al Rayyan Club coach Carlos Schwanke said after the final, “This time, we got enough time to prepare a good combination. Also we got some rest before the final. In the Qatar Cup, I think we were not ready due to preparations for the Gulf trophy.
“But congratulations to the entire team, which played a fantastic volleyball.
“The arrival of Serbian professional Nikic made us sound in defence and attack as well, though Camejo and Petrovic provided most of the volleys tonight. We’re very happy to end the season with the big title and I’m so proud of my team,” added the Brazilian mentor.
Camejo, who led scoring with 13 kills out of his 15 points, said, “The third set became quite tough and interesting. We’re happy with the Emir Cup after beating a strong Al Arabi Club.”
Nikic, the Serbian player who helped his team win the World League last year, said, “I joined the team late. I didn’t know much about the club players. The coach provided us the best possible practice so that we could form a good team.
“I’m happy that I could add some quality to the team. Also we’re pleased to bag the Emir Cup.”
Nikic was surprised to see high level of volleyball in Qatar. “I didn’t expect the volleyball standard of Qatar so good and high. I really enjoyed playing here and I’m looking forward to coming here again and playing next season.”
Petrovic, the second highest scorer for Al Rayyan Club with 14 points, praised his team’s fighting qualities. “My team played very well today, especially in the first two sets. I think Al Rayyan is an amazing team. And the third set was typical for the final.
“This was very important season for us. We had too many big events. Also we could have won the Arab clubs title, the GCC clubs title and the Qatar Cup. We were really very close. But in the end, we won the Emir Cup so I’m feeling very happy now,” added Petkovic.
Waleed commented: “We were dejected after the Super Cup, Qatar Cup, League, Arab Clubs Championship and Gulf Clubs Championship. However, we kept trying our best and finally, we landed the biggest title of the domestic season. We want to thank the players, fans and the club management. We’re really feeling a bit relieved now.”
Al Rayyan Club beat Al Arabi Club 25-20 25-15 36-34 in one hour and 22 minutes
Al Rayyan Club:
Othman Ajab, Milos Nikic, Ziad, Eykman Nunez, Belal Abu Nabout, Dusan Petkovic, Oreol Camejo, Mubarak Dahi Waleed, Rhaimi Wadidi, Kannani (L), Musa (L), Ali, Edin, Bairama Faye, Andre Luiz,
Head coach: Carlos Schwanke; Assistant coach: Karim Ben Ayad.
Al Arabi Club:
Seifeddine Elmajid, Renan Rebeiro, Amro Hisham, Taylor Sander, Abderrahman (L), Gyrogy Grozer, Ahmad Bassam, Thiago de Oliveira, Jorge Gonzalez, Miguel Dalmao, Mohamed Ibrahim, Juma Faraz, Ghanem (L).
Head coach: Patrik Duflos; Assistant coach: Maaouia Lajnef.