After below par performances in recent tournaments, defending champions Al Rayyan are aiming to bounce back in the 36th GCC Clubs Volleyball Championship which begins today at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena.
Rayyan finished third in the Arab Clubs Championship last month and fourth in the recently-concluded Qatar Volleyball League.
“Finishing third in the Arab Clubs Championship was certainly not our target; we wanted to finish much higher,” said Karim, assistant coach of Al Rayyan.
“We have added a few new players after the league. Another positive point is the return of Sulieman, our libero, from a six-month layoff due to injury. Hopefully, we will live up to the expectations,” said the assistant to Brazilian head coach Carlos Schwanke.
Al Arabi, who finished third in the local league, is the second club from Qatar in the championship. They will take on Al Salam of Oman on the first day of the championship.
Rayyan are two-time defending champions, while Arabi last won it in 2010, when the tournament was held in Muscat, Oman.
Seven clubs from the region will be vying for the top place in the tournament, which will be played in a round-robin format, with the team with the maximum number of points emerging as the winner.
Al Ahli and Dar Kulaib of Bahrain, Al Ain of UAE, Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia are the other teams in the championship, which ends on March 17.
Last year in Oman, three-time champions Rayyan defeated Al Arabi in straight sets to win the title. The two are set to renew their rivalry at the regional competition when they clash on March 11.
In the Arab Clubs Championship in Manama, Rayyan had maintained a clean sheet in the group stages and beat Saudi Arabia’s Al Wahda 16-25, 25-19, 25-14, 25-16 in the quarter-final before going down 23-25, 17-25, 20-25 to eventual champions Al Ahli in the semifinal.
Rayyan defeated Al Salam 25-23, 25-20, 23-25, 25-17 in the play-off to finish third.
This was Rayyan’s second podium finish in the championship history. They were runners-up in the 2012 edition held in Lebanon. Qatar’s El Jaish finished second in the same championship, going down 25-27, 28-26, 25-21, 21-25, 13-15 to Bahrain’s Al Ahli in the final.
GCC Clubs Volleyball Championship director Yousef Ahmed Kanu attends a technical committee meeting. PICTURE: Jayaram