Heimir Hallgrimsson, the first ever football coach from Iceland to ply his trade in Qatar, is hoping the prestigious Amir Cup brings better tidings for Al Arabi after an underwhelming show in the QNB Stars League where they finished sixth among 12 teams.
The former Iceland player and coach who helped his country qualify for the World Cup for the first time – in Russia last year – didn’t have a clear idea about what to expect when he took over at Al Arabi, a world away from his native North Atlantic island nation.
But after about five months into his job in Qatar, the 51-year-old sports a relaxed, if not a fully contented, look. The heat – of the desert as well as of the seat he occupies – has yet to get to him, judging by his demeanour and the absence of any tan on his skin.
And yes, he has learned to punctuate his quotes with an “Insha Allah”.
“I was given a lot of advice by people when they heard I was moving to Qatar. It’s a totally different place to where I come from,” Hallgrimsson told journalists after the draw ceremony for the 47th Amir Cup was held at the Marsa Malaz Kempinski yesterday.
“But it was I who was coming here and it was up to me to adjust with Qatar, and not the other way round.”
Al Arabi will start off on April 26 in the third round against the winners of the second round match between Al Shamal and Umm Salal on April 20. Both clubs present a tricky challenge, but Hallgrimsson has no complaints.
“I am looking forward to the Amir Cup. “It’s a nice cup competition. I am quite satisfied with the draw but in the end it depends how you play.”
Hallgrimsson was hired in December to revive Al Arabi’s fortunes in the QNB Stars League but even their most optimistic fans knew it would be a tough ask for them to mount a fightback and salvage a top-four finish.
“When I came in, Al Arabi’s chances (of a good finish) were more or less over,” Hallgrimsson, who is also a qualified dentist, admitted.
“In football you have to deal with the good and the bad. We have had some good wins, but we have also had bad days.”
But he is happy with the vibes he has been receiving in Qatar, more so from the Al Arabi management.
“Al Arabi are a big club with big ambitions. They have not won anything for a long time but I like the people around the club. They are totally committed and supportive.”
The “Dream Team” as they are called, have a great history, having won the league seven times and the Amir Cup on eight occasions.
But their last league win came in 1997 and their last Amir Cup title in 1993 after which they have largely struggled to cope as other teams got their act together and began to dominate the domestic scene.
In case Al Arabi are able to clear the first hurdle, they will enter the quarter-finals, from where the top four teams in the QNB Stars league – winners Al Sadd, runners-up Al Duhail, Al Sailiya and Al Rayyan will start their campaign.
As for the draw, on April 20, Al Shamal will take on Umm Sala at Thani Bin Jassim Stadium while Al Wakrah face Al Khor at the same venue in a late fixture.
A day later, Al Markhiya take on Al Kharaitiyat at Grand Hamad Stadium while Muaither face Qatar SC at the same venue.
In the third stage of the tournament on April 26, Al Arabi, Al Gharafa, Al Shahaniya and Al Ahli will take on the winners of the second round.
In the fourth round on May 2, Al Duhail, Al Sadd, Al Sailiyah and Al Rayyan will play the winners of the third round.
The semi-finals will be played on May 11 and 12 while the title clash will be staged on May 16.
The winners of the fifth round matches will play against each other. Winner of this match will be crowned champions of the 47th Emir Cup, the final will be held at Al Wakrah Stadium on 16 May 2019.
The draw ceremony yesterday was also attended by QFA president Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani, secretary general Mansour al-Ansari and members of the QFA executive committee, besides club chiefs and coaches of some teams.
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