GLORY days are back for Al Arabi. One of the most-successful clubs in Qatar’s domestic scenario, the Reds’ trophy cabinet is adorned with 25 league trophies, 15 Qatar Cups and 21 Emir’s Cups.
And last week they added another silverware when they annexed the Qatar Cup for the 16th time, dethroning Al Rayyan 25-21, 21-25, 25-17, 25-22 in the final at Qatar Women’s Sport Committee Hall.
The 2016-17 season has been a roller-coaster one for Arabi.
They started with two triumphs — Association Cup and Super Cup — but then saw an alarming dip in form which resulted in them finishing third in the Qatar League and fifth in the GCC Clubs Championship at home.
A shake-up at the top was inevitable and the first casualty was Tunisian coach Mawia Alafjjanf, who was replaced by Frenchman Patrick Duflot.
The absence of a strong professional player also hurt Arabi towards the end of the league campaign in which they had to bring Fabricio Souza from Qatar SC.
But with two important cup tournaments looming, Arabi brought in high-profile players — outside hitter Taylor Sander, a member of America’s bronze-winning squad at the Rio Games and Germany’s proven performer Gyorgy Grozer.
The duo made a quick impact, with Grozer scoring a match-high 27 points in the final and Sander accounting for 21.
Rayyan were simply outdone by the duo in the contest which lasted 1hr, 42min.
The relief was palpable in the words of Arabi skipper Juma Faraj as he received the trophy from Qatar Volleyball Association President Ali Ghanim Al Kuwari.
“Definitely, we played a high-level game and won the Qatar Cup. We came to this tournament after some bad results in the league and GCC Championship. We were determined to put in our best effort this time,” said Juma.
“By God’s grace, we dominated Al Rayyan and won the final in four sets. Also we’re getting to our best towards the close of the season, which is very important,” he added.
The final was the 17th in the cup history and 22nd overall for Arabi and Rayyan, two powerhouses and arch-rivals in Qatar volleyball.
In Qatar Cup alone, Arabi had beaten Rayyan 10 times in the final previously and the latest triumph proves the pendulum is firmly in their side.
“In big games, our motivation-level is high. Whenever we take on Rayyan, we raise our performance,” said senior player Ibrahim Saeed.
Having won three cup tournaments on offer, the onus is on Arabi to add one more as the most prestigious season-ending Emir’s Cup begins on Wednesday.