Club coaches eye stability and consistency on the pitch
With the start of the 2018-19 QNB Stars League just a few weeks away, the focus of the team managements and fans in the coming days will shift on the coaches who are busy preparing their outfits for the new football season.
The coaches who desire to win the QNB Stars League title know it is a battle that involves complete readiness for the rigours of the long football season.
However, there will be familiar faces with coaches like Djamel Belmadi of Al Duhail, Jesualdo Ferreira of Al Sadd, Abdullak Mubaraq of Qatar SC, Sami Trabelsi of Al Sailiya, Luka Bonacic of Al Arabi and Jose Mauricio of Al Shahaniya. All these six coaches are set to continue in their roles in the new season also.
Other clubs like Al Gharafa and Umm Salal have signed new coaches. Former League champions Al Gharafa have brought in Frenchman Christian Gourcuff while Umm Salal roped in Laurent Banide who will head a pre-season training camp in Slovenia from July 10 to 25.
Al Ahli have brought in their former head coach Milan Macala of the Czech Republic while Al Khor will be eyeing wins under the guidance of new coach Adel Al Sulaimi from Tunisia. Al Khor will have their pre-season training camp in the Netherlands July 2 until July 26. Al Sulaimi headed the team in the last few rounds of the QNB Stars League last season.
Al Kharaitiyat, looking for a positive start in the new season, will be coached by Tunisian Nassif Al Bayawi.
Qatar football giants Al Rayyan, however, have not announced a replacement for Michael Laudrup who guided the team to the Amir Cup final last May. The club has entered serious negotiations with Matias Almeyda who has been in Doha for the talks. The Argentine is the only one who has never worked with a QNB Stars League club, unlike Frenchman Gourcuff who was with Al Gharafa in the 2002-2003 season.
For the coaches, the battles will be fought off the pitch when they manage their respective teams in the pre-season training camps. The new football season in Qatar is expected to be another nine-month phase of intense battles and rivalry.
It was a similar script last season when Algerian tactician Belmadi handled the reigns at Al Duhail against arch-rivals Al Sadd who have the experience of veteran coach Ferreira. Last season, it was one way traffic as Al Duhail romped to three trophies in one season: QNB Stars League, Qatar Cup and the Amir Cup.
The ambitions of the coaches doesn't survive on intense battles alone. The story of a team winning and not making it big also depends on season budgets and signings of top overseas players. Al Sadd coach Ferreira will be clearly looking to get his team the head-start as they eye wins against top sides like Al Duhail, Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa.
With spotlight on Belmadi and Ferreira a routine matter - since they coach top sides like Al Duhail and Al Sadd - there will be other names who will have fans' expectations to deal with. Gourcuff has been brought back by Al Gharafa to regain lost glory of the past. Banide too will have pressure to tackle when he guides Umm Salal in the new season.
For his part, Machala will try to strike a balance at Al Ahli after a difficult last season. Croatian Bonacic will have to do a careful job of lifting Al Arabi while Trabelsi will be attempting to break into the top four of the QNB Stars League with Al Sailiya. There will be high hopes associated with Al Kharaitiyat's Al Bayawi, Qatar SC's Mubarak and Al Khor's Al Sulaimi
Al Shahaniya - however may stick to one plan - how to stay away from the relegation zone. Spanish coach Mauricio has promised to keep.
The new QNB Stars League season begins in August.