IN HIS heydey, Obaid Juma used to inspire a generation of footballers in Qatar.
He has been Al Sadd’s go-to man since joining them from Al Ahli in 1974 at a young age of 18. They relied on his calmness in moments of confusion and on his strength when their muscles turned stiff. It was his inimitable personality that had prompted coach Hassan Othman to hand Obaid the captaincy at 20 and ask him to lead a star-studded group. He did not disappoint as he led Sadd to their first-ever Emir’s Cup triumph a year later. And he considers receiving the prestigious cup from then Emir the late HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani as the most memorable moment as a footballer.
“It was a nice feeling. We played at the Doha Stadium, which was packed on the final day. We didn’t want to miss out on the title having lost to Esteghlal (now Qatar Sports Club) in the final a year ago. And we won, beating Al Ahli 4-3. I became the youngest captain to lift the cup. It was a proud moment, the best in my career as a footballer,” Obaid, who helped Sadd win the Asian Champions League as coach in 1989, told Doha Stadium Plus.
“It’s 42 years now, but memories are fresh in my mind. I would say the growth of Emir’s Cup symbolises the progress Qatar has achieved. We had a humble beginning as a nation. Looking back, we’ve achieved big things. The Khalifa stadium was opened in 1976 for the Gulf Cup. It was renovated first for the Asian Games in 2006 and now it’s refurbished for the World Cup. It tells our growth. We’re very proud of our country,” said Obaid.
He said every team wanted to reach the Emir’s Cup final.
“All teams want to progress to the final as they can meet and shake hands with the Emir. If they win, the players can have lunch with His Highness at the Emiri Diwan the following day. That’s why they’re fighting,” said Obaid.
He added he was looking forward to Friday’s final.
“I’m happy that Sadd and Rayyan are playing the final again. Since 1977, when they met in the Emir’s Cup final for the first time, they’ve fought so many battles. A face-off between the two, exactly four decades later, is the best game to mark the opening of the historic stadium. It would be another great occasion,” said Obaid.