After Al Rayyan’s failure, this weekend it is Al Arabi’s turn to try and stop the El Jaish juggernaut in the final of the Emir Cup volleyball.
Al Arabi players celebrate a point during the semi-final playoff against Police earlier this month.
Victory for Maaouia Lajnef’s side at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena would give the Tunisian his second title of the year and deny the Armymen their first major domestic title.
League champions Arabi entered the final defeating Police 2-0 in the best-of-there semifinal playoff, while Jaish overcame a stiff challenge from the 11-time champions Al Rayyan 2-1 for their maiden Emir Cup appearance.
“We are confident after winning the league and beating Police comfortably in the playoffs and we are mentally all set for the final,” Arabi’s professional player Ivan Zaytsev told Gulf Times yesterday.
For Arabi, the match also assumes importance as they will look to avenge their semifinal loss to the Armymen in the Qatar Cup.
“The Qatar Cup defeat against Jaish left a bitter test in the mouth. I think we played a good level of volleyball and now we have a chance to beat them in the prestigious Emir Cup final,” the 27-year-old star said.
A bronze medallist of the London Olympics in 2012, Zaytse also praised Jaish’s game but said his team has belief in their game to win the title.
“Jaish is playing very good volleyball but we are also a strong side and we have belief in our game and think we can do it,” the Italian player of Russian origin said.
“Their game plan is very good. Their receiving is of top quality and I think their attack revolve around Simon (Robertlandy),” the 202-cm tall opposite player said. “For us the key of the match will be our service. We have to serve strong.”
Jaish and Arabi are clashing for a title second time in the current season. Earlier, they were pitted in the season-opening QVA Cup final and the army team emerged as champions 3-1, after rallying from one set down.
Led by Cuban stars Simon and Oreol Camejo, Jaish’s performances have been very good this season. Though they are in the final for the first time, coach Zohair Belhadj says they are not getting carried away.
“We must try to play the same, with the same intensity and spirit,” said Belhadj. Simon played for the Cuban national team for five years and was a silver medallist in the 2010 World Championships. He also bagged the bronze medal in the 2005 World League.
The 28-year-old Simon also wore Al Rayyan colours and helped them finish runners-up in the FIVB Clubs World Championship in 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He was declared the best middle blocker as well in that championship.
“We have played some very good games as a team and I hope we will live up to our potential tomorrow against Arabi,” Simon said.
In 2009, the Cuban was adjudged the best blocker and spiker in the World League. Next year, he won the best blocker honours in the World Championships too.
The winners will receive QR500,000, while the runners-up will get QR250,000. The player of the tournament will be richer by QR10,000.
The final will be followed by the Inter-Community Volleyball Challenge Cup, a Qatar Volleyball Association (QVA) popular initiative, which commenced on Wednesday with the participation of four teams — the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India (KMCC Indians) and Nepal.
Qatar Volleyball Association technical director Hussein Imam Ali, Al Arabi coach Maaouia Lajnef, El Jaish coach Zohair Belhadj, players and officials pose with the Emir Cup trophy after a press conference ahead of their Emir Cup volleyball final yesterday. PICTURES: Jayaram