BREAKING NEWS

Gharafa look to regain title, while Shamal aim to retain

Yash Mudgal

Friday، 13 March 2020 10:40 PM

Al Gharafa are eager to regain the Qatar Men’s Basketball League title after a gap of six years, as they will take on defending champions Al Shamal in the final at the Al Gharafa Indoor Hall today at 6:15pm.
Al Gharafa had last won the title in 2014 when their current captain Abdulrahman Saad was still a teenager. Saad believes his team is ready to win the title again.
“We have played the season very well. I have full confidence in my team, if we are injury free and play to our potential, we have a very good chance to win the title,” Saad told Gulf Times.
Al Gharafa defeated Al Arabi 88-83 and Al Shamal beat Al Wakrah 79-63 for their spots in the decider.
In the last couple of years Gharafa has had a roller-coaster ride, having lost to Al Rayyan, the most successful team in the history with 15 titles, in the 2016 final, but winning the prestigious Amir Cup and Qatar Cup in 2017.
Saad, after returning from an injury he suffered during his stint with the national team, played well to score 16 crucial points in the semi-finals against Al Arabi. This is the second time Saad will be playing the league final in his long career with Gharafa.
“I played my first season with Gharafa in 2013-2014 and we won the title that year. Now this is my ninth season in the senior league and we are again in the final. This time I am captain of the team and this is a big thing for me,” the 23-year-old guard said.
Talking about his team’s composition, he said: “Naddem is supposed to be back for the game from injury and he is a very important player for us. I think as a team we are ready or the final.”
Gharafa’s coach Kosay Hatem said his team had overcome many hardships to reach the final.
“This final is important because of the setbacks we faced over the past two seasons. We last won the league way back in 2014. We haven’t done well after winning the Qatar Cup-Amir Cup double in 2017. We have faced many adversities sometimes, we had to play with only junior players, but we have managed,” Hatem said.
The Iraqi coach also feels that it wasn’t all luck that his side reached final despite finishing fourth in the league phase.
“We were late entrants to the semi-finals stage, but I don’t think we are lucky to reach final. We have defeated round-robin phase leaders Al Arabi in the semi-final and it gives us confidence. We are a deserving finalist,” he said.
On the other hand, Shamal’s Moroccan coach Hassan Hached aims to win back-to-back titles. 
Shamal have finished second after the double round-robin first phase, however, Hached admitted the final would be not an easy game.
“Playing against an experienced team like Gharafa is always difficult. We won the title last year and want to retain it. But it’s easier said than done. Unlike before, the final is limited to a single game and it’ll make things more complicated,” he said.
“We’ve been consistent throughout the season and I’m hopeful it’ll stand us in good shape for the final,” he said.
The final was originally scheduled for March 3, but the QBF postponed the match as two players from each side, who had travelled to Iran with the national team to participate in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, were placed under precautionary quarantine by the country’s health authorities. The players have been declared fit by the authorities concerned. 
Al Arabi defeated Al Wakrah 82-75 on March 3 to finish third in the league.

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