Al Duhail striker Yousef El Arabi in an Exclusive Interview with QSL Online
Yousef El Arabi has been spearheading Al Duhail ever since he joined the champion Qatari club at the start of 2016-17 season.
The Moroccan striker needs no introduction in Qatar football. He has been producing goals dime a dozen and bagged the league’s top-scorer award in the last two seasons.
The 31-year-old has so far scored 18 goals, as the QNB Stars League has taken a break after 15 rounds of action, and stands second behind Al Sadd’s Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah (29). And Al Duhail are second in the table with 36 points, two less than Al Sadd.
In an Exclusive Interview with QSL Online, El Arabi spoke about various topics. Excerpts:
How do you find your career in Qatar?
It’s very good, I must say. I had been doing an outstanding job for Granada in the Spanish La Liga before I came to Qatar. So it’s sort of a continuation.
Personally too, I’m happy with my family in this country.
What transformation have you observed in Qatar football during your stint so far?
The game is different in Qatar compared to La Liga which is the best, according to me. I have seen Qatar football evolve and make good progress. The league competition is getting stronger after every edition.
How do you sum up Al Duhail’s performance this season?
I must admit that we aren’t playing the way we played last season. We had a ball in every sense and won three key titles (QNB Stars League, Qatar Cup and Emir Cup). We need to get back to that form.
How do you assess your individual performance this time around?
Being a team game, the injury to Ismail (Mohammed) after the very first match in the league and then to players such as Luis Martin, Karim (Boudiaf) and Murad Naji combined with the late change of coach (Djamel Belmadi replacing Nabil Maaloul) affected my game a bit. Now, Nam (Tae-Hee) has joined the list of injured. I rate him as the best midfielder presently playing in the Middle East.
How do you cope with the situation, having emerged as league winners without losing a single match last season?
Well, this is football. Situations, team formations, coach and so many other factors may change, and you’ve to adapt to it. You got to move on. I still believe Al Duhail are the best team in Qatar.
You were the top scorer in the last two seasons. Do you still believe you can repeat the feat?
Why not. I’m 11 goals short of Bounedjah. But anything is possible in football. You’ve many games left to play in the league and you never know. But the most important thing for me is to help the side retain the QNB Stars League title.
Al Duhail were in the lead for most part. But you lost the advantage to Al Sadd…
Yes. We had the edge. We’ve lost it to Al Sadd temporarily after losing to them in our face-off. It’s important for us not to lose points from the remaining seven matches. It’s also important to beat Al Sadd in the return game.
What do you think are your best qualities as a striker?
My main job is scoring, but I’m equally happy giving assists. I love the process of finishing the action. I work more on it. It matters a lot.
How well are you teaming up with Brazilian winger (Paolo) Edmilson?
He makes excellent passes. I talk to him a lot especially at training sessions and we’re teaming up well on the pitch. He’s younger and has much to offer.
How do you compare coaches Belmadi, Maaloul and incumbent Rui Faria?
We had taken all trophies with Belmadi. He coached the side pretty longer and brought the best out of the players.
Maaloul replaced him just before the start of 2018-19 QNB Stars League and he didn’t get much time for preparations. And he didn’t have the services of all players together, mainly due to injuries.
Present coach Rui Faria may be fully in charge of a team for the first time, but he’s a known name in Europe. I had an encounter with him in the La Liga when Granada played against Real Madrid, coached by Jose Mourinho. Rui was his assistant. He has a tough task on hand, with the team’s desire to win titles.
What’s your career target?
I wish to win the AFC Champions League with Al Duhail. It’s not impossible, given that we’re among the best sides in Asia. To be successful in continental competition, you need to focus on small details.
How do you look forward to the QSL Cup final between Al Duhail and Al Gharafa on 31st January?
It’s another trophy up for grabs. Good that we reached the final. It’s an opportunity for our Under-23 coach Madjid Bougherra to make it big. We’re keen to beat Al Gharafa and clinch the title.
What’re your expectations about the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar?
I’m happy Qatar is hosting such a big event. The stadiums and infrastructure are getting ready. It seems all the hard work are paying off. It’s reflecting on the competitive front as well, the latest example being the Qatar national team’s good run at the ongoing Asian Cup.
How was your experience with the Morocco national team?
I could represent my nation in many matches and score some goals. It was a matter of great pride.