newmsite

Al Rifaa and Al Ahli to meet in opener

The Al Sayegh Challenge Football Championship kicks off at Zayed Sports City tonight. Bahrain's Al Rifaa and Qatar's Al Ahli open the tournament which is organised by the Al Jazira Sports and Cultural Club.

By Yasir Abbasher, Staff Reporter
00:00 August 17, 2005

The Al Sayegh Challenge Football Championship kicks off at Zayed Sports City tonight.

Bahrain's Al Rifaa and Qatar's Al Ahli open the tournament which is organised by the Al Jazira Sports and Cultural Club.

"Our team started preparations in Europe and performed well, but despite the construction going on inside the main stadium and hot weather conditions, we wanted to prepare with the rest of the GCC teams and start the season in top condition," said CEO Donald Murray at a press conference on Monday night.

Murray expressed thanks to Al Sayegh Jewellery, the main sponsors, and Etihad Airways for their support to the club. "We are honoured to welcome our guests and are proud to host them in the new Al Jazira Hotel," said manager Haitham Murad.

Al Jazira coach Sef Vergoossen said the tournament would give his team an opportunity to wrap up preparations for the new season which commences on August 31.

He confessed that having to play all his matches in the new season at the main stadium of Zayed Sports City was like playing away games. "The players will find it difficult to adapt and it is not an advantage at all," he said.

"We also have a few problems: Mohammad Salim Al Enazy will be out of action for about four months, Mohammad Omar is suspended for two games and Yousuf Abdul Aziz is recovering from an injury."

Sef said that his club was yet to confirm a second professional. Though Ebrahim was already assured of his place in the team, the coach was taking his time before making the choice between Portugal's Dario and Benin's Razzaq.

"Both are good players and we have time before making a decision."

Al Rifaa's head coach, Dragan Talajic from Croatia, said that he was missing the services of nine players who joined the training camp for the Bahrain national squad currently in preparation for the 2006 World Cup.

"But that does not mean we will not be able to play competitively. We are determined to compete for the title," he assured.

Al Ahli's Brazilian coach Osvaldo De Oliveira said that he had come to win the title. "We have four professionals from Brazil and we want to prepare for the Emir Cup in Qatar and win the tournament."

The teams will compete on a round robin format. Each team will play five penalty shootouts at the end of each match. The team with the highest points will win the tournament. If two teams are tied in the number of points, then the team scoring more from the shootouts will win the title.