Coming back from injury is always a challenge, and even more so when the player in question is competing for a place in one of his country’s top clubs. Yet that is precisely what Qatar international Wesam Rizik managed. Just two years after a serious injury threatened his future with Al Sadd and saw him loaned to fellow Qatari outfit Al Khor, the midfielder made a triumphant return to the Doha-based side.
Rizik’s stellar performances during his season-long loan spell with Al Khor prompted Al Sadd to recall him at the start of last year. It was to prove an inspired decision, with the 30-year-old instrumental in his side’s march to the quarter-finals of this season’s AFC Champions League.
Back with a vengeance
Having participated in five previous editions of Asia’s premier club competition, Rizik’s experience will be a crucial in Al Sadd’s quarter-final second leg clash with Iran’s Sepahan today, when Qatar’s most successful club will be seeking to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in its illustrious history.
As he told FIFA.com, Rizik thrives on the challenges presented by the tournament: “Taking part in the Champions League is an honour for any player, and you learn a lot in the process. My previous experiences in the tournament really benefitted me and I’m just looking to learn more.”
Nevertheless, the midfielder says that Al Sadd’s success in Asia is down to the whole team, insisting that if they are to become the first Qatari club to go all the way since the tournament was founded in 2003, then everyone must play a part.
“Of course it was a major achievement for us to reach the quarter-finals and now we’re aiming for a semi-final spot. However, that’s not just down to my performances: everyone has contributed and we’re all fully focused on the title.”
“Wonderful though as it is to take part,” he added, “the fact remains that it’s a tough tournament. It’s the cream of Asian club football. Most of the games we play are hard-fought and we’ve already come up against some strong opposition.”
As for Al Sadd’s failure to win domestic honours in recent seasons, Rizik was philosophical: “To be honest, the club’s been in contention for last three years. We’ve lacked a bit of good fortune, that’s all. Under coach Jorge Fossati we’re playing better than ever, and our form in Asia is the best proof of that.”
The game against Sepahan this today will be one of the biggest in the club’s history. A win would secure them a first semi-final appearance in the competition and bring them a step closer to another continental trophy to go with the AFC Asian Club Championship they won in 1989.
Rizik is certainly optimistic: “Our chances are very good, given that we’re playing at home. That can only be a plus for the players.”
Nevertheless, he remains wary of their Iranian opponents, saying: “It won’t be easy as we’re up against a tricky side. That said, they’re in for a tough time, too. It will be difficult for both sides. The odds of reaching the semis are in our favour and we’ll just have to convert our enthusiasm and determination into victory.”
Morale in the Al Sadd camp is high after the team recorded their first win of the season in the Qatar Stars League last Saturday. The Doha giants beat Umm Salal 3-1, with Rizik himself chipping in with a goal, though he insisted the match was about more than the three points.
“It was vital,” he said. “We played very well and with composure, something we’ll try to repeat against Sepahan. I just hope my appetite for goals will be there and I’ll get on the score sheet again,” he added with a smile.
The ambitious Rizik is also looking beyond Asia, his ultimate goal being to take part in the biggest club competition of all, the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan at the end of the year. “Playing in the Club World Cup would be beyond a dream,” he enthused. “It’s a chance to play against the greatest sides in the world.”
As our interview drew to a close, Rizik was once again back in the present, sounding a word of caution: “Before any of that though, we first have to focus on getting past Sepahan and then reaching the final.”