11/23/2016 8:05:25 AM

DIFFERENT CHALLENGE

DIFFERENT CHALLENGE

IF YOU have had a Real Madrid stint, then it is sufficient to convince the world about your worth as a footballer. For any player, the thought of having played at one of the biggest stages in the game should be inspiring. 

Alvaro Perez, who played for Real from 2004-07, besides trying his luck with a number of other European teams, was Al Shahaniya’s marquee signing the season before last when the Oryxes won promotion. Despite the club suffering relegation straightaway, Alvaro stayed with them.

Shahaniya, back in the Qatar Stars League (QSL), were expected to be the punching bags, but they have fared better than some of the regulars in the top flight. And the 34-year-old defender deserves some credit for that.

In an interview with Doha Stadium Plus, Alvaro spoke about Shahaniya’s stature, their plans and road ahead.

With your personality and experience in several European leagues, other players, particularly youngsters, must be looking up to you. How do you deal with that?  

We’ve some really experienced Qatari players like Nabeel Anwar. Me and my fellow defender Mehrdad Pooladi have a different set of skills. It’s important we mix them all and form a good group. That’s what we’re trying to do at Shahaniya. 

We know we’re a small team, fighting for survival. We’ve to work like a family, which is something we always remind ourselves at the club. It’s the only way for us to stay in the first division.

Miguel Angel Lotina’s presence at the helm must’ve influenced you to join Shahaniya in 2014. Had his sudden departure in any way demoralised you?

Football is like that. Of course, it was a surprise for me to see Miguel at Shahaniya. It influenced my decision because I thought it would help me acclimatise much faster as we speak the same language. It did help me settle down quickly at the club.

When he decided to leave, I knew I had to accept the decision and act like a professional. Lotina came back to the club after we were relegated last season and won us promotion again. Now we’ve a new coach and I try to give my best by following his instructions.

Fellow-Spaniards Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Garcia joined Al Sadd and Al Rayyan respectively with an eye on titles, but you came to a promoted team and stayed with them despite getting relegated...

When I joined Shahaniya, they had just won promotion. And when they got relegated, I felt guilty. Of course, I could’ve left Qatar or moved to another club, but the management gave me the confidence to stay.

Looking back, it was a good decision. We’re doing a good job. The players know each other a lot more and I think that’s making the difference.

How do you rate the QSL’s standard this season? What’re your expectations?

Well, we’ve to be realistic this season. It’s very tough as four teams will go down. We’re keen to stay in the top flight despite being one of the low-profile teams. We can’t be unduly worried. We take it game by game and always try to give our best.

The league is really competitive. Four teams — Al Rayyan, El Jaish, Al Sadd and Lekhwiya — are slightly better than others.

Fighting for survival means your defence will be always under
pressure. How do you look at that?

You’ll always have pressure, be it fighting for the title or the relegation battle. It’ll be there as long as every team has some targets. From the beginning, we know our stature and that we’ll be fighting for survival. We know how to approach it.

How do you enjoy the life in Qatar?

Qatar is a nice country and my family really feels comfortable here. I can’t complain about anything. Life is good, I live in a good house in Doha, the facilities are excellent for us to train and play. I’ve to travel a bit as we’re training in Shahaniya, but I listen to music and drive all the way. 

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