Khalid Al Mawlawi, (second right) President of Qatar Volleyball Association (QVA), is seen with Theofanis Tsiokris, honorary Executive Vice-President of FIVB, Aleksander Boricic, also of FIVB, and Mohammed Ali Al Mohannadi, General Secretary, QVA, at a press conference in Doha yesterday. PICS: SHAIVAL DALAL
DOHA: Emir Cup champions Al Rayyan will be aiming to cause an upset in their opening FIVB Club World Volleyball Championship match when they host defending champions Trentino Diatec of Italy today.
Al Rayyan, the hosts of this year’s edition, is one of two Qatari teams set to take part in the eight-team tournament in the men’s category.
Al Arabi who qualified as Asian champions by claiming glory in China, is the other team to represent Qatar at the Aspire Dome. The event is organised by the Qatar Volleyball Association (QVA).
Both Qatari clubs will be aiming to advance from their respective groups. Among the players in the Al Rayyan camp will be Brazilian and London Games silver medallist Rodrigo.
“I played with SESI in 2011 and was very pleased with the experience,” said Rodrigao.
“The prestige of the Club World Championships is growing every season and I hope to do a good job for Al Rayyan,” added the Brazilian.
The Emir Cup champions have also signed brothers Georgi and Valentin Bratoev, who impressed in the World League and Olympics this year.
Elsewhere, Al Arabi, who recently hired Brazilian coach Mauro Grasso, will be aiming to advance past the group stage for the first time in three attempts.
It is the first time that the club have qualified for this competition as continental champions.
Al Arabi are in Pool B, with European champions Zenit Kazan, African champions Zamalek and wildcard entrants PGE Skra.
Al Rayyan have been drawn in Pool A with Trentino Diatec, NORCECA nominated Tigres UNLN and South American champions SadaCruzeiro.
This year’s line-up includes experienced teams and debutants. Zenit Kazan will be aiming to improve on their third place in 2009, and will enter this year’s campaign as one of the strong favourites to lift the trophy on October 19.
The Russian side will be coached by Vladimir Aleckno who led Russia to gold at the London 2012 Games. Zenit Kazan will be without influential captain Alexander Volkobut but can count on Matthew Anderson of the US to deliver the goods.
The Russian club will face stiff competition from defending champions and wildcard entrants Trentino Diatec of Italy, who have triumphed in the last three years in Doha.
Although the Italian club lost to Zenit Kazan in the Champions League final, few people would argue that they fully deserve a place in this competition.
Despite losing both their matches in their domestic league this season, Radostin Stoytchev’s side has what it takes end their poor form and win an unprecedented fourth Club World title in Doha, especially with almost the same players that won the title last year still at the club.
Although Zenit Kazan and Trentino Diatec are firm favourites for the title, dark horses PGE Skra will be aiming to surprise people.
Runners-up in 2009 and 2010, the Polish club will be aiming to go one step further.
Debutants Sado Cruzeiro of Brazil who will face Al Rayyan in opening Pool B match, will be relishing the opportunity of facing quality clubs.
Argentinian coach, Marcelo Mendez, who has managed the club since 2009, said his players ‘are ready for the challenge’.
The men’s tournament will consist of a single round robin, with the top two advancing to the semi-final knockout stage. The winners will meet in the final on October 19. THE PENINSULA