Though Al Ahli’s involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009 was limited to a mere 94 minutes, their coach Mahdi Redha said their 2-0 defeat by New Zealand’s Auckland City on Wednesday was still a valuable learning experience and one that would serve them well in the future.
Speaking after the play-off for the quarter-finals, the coach said: “We did nothing to merit winning the game – it just wasn’t our day. We’ll gather our thoughts and watch the match again to try and work out where we went wrong so we can avoid a repetition in the future.”
“I feel we need to strengthen the team even though it’s the same squad that won the league title last year. I believe the players we had missing through injuries, like Ismail Al Hammadi and Ahmed Khalil, could have been the solution, and maybe they’d have been able to turn things around,” Redha added.
His disappointment at the team’s premature exit was clear to see and he also expressed regret that 15,000 supporters went home disappointed. “It was very sad for us to leave the competition so early. We had hoped to do well and make Emirati football proud, but things didn’t work out like that. Consequently, we’d like to apologise to the public who came in their droves to support us and also to the rest of the Emirati people.”
Looking to the future, Redha was defiantly upbeat, saying: “Defeat is not the end of the world - we just have to start over again. We’ve got 13 days before our next match which we’ll use to prepare the team, especially as we’ve got a number of crucial league games coming up.”
The team’s Egyptian midfielder, Hosny Abd Rabo, was also keen to take some positives from the tournament: “Hopefully we can compete in this event again, as it is every player’s dream to take part in the biggest club competition in the world. We were a bit unlucky against Auckland, but that’s football for you. We’ve gained some valuable experience and aim to come back for another attempt.”
The 25-year-old also spoke of how much the experience meant to him personally, saying, “Obviously I’m quite emotional now. As an Egyptian, competing in the tournament for a foreign club is a great honour. It has also been good for my own personal development and will hopefully make me a better player in the future.”
For his part, defender Bader Yaqoot felt that Al Ahli greatly missed brothers Ahmed and Faisal Khalil, and said their presence would have had “a very positive influence” on proceedings. “Collectively, we’ve benefited from playing here now want to go on and achieve more successes with Al Ahli and hopefully play at the Club World Cup again,” he added.
The final word went to midfielder Hassan Ali, who said, “We’ve learned a lot from being here and playing Auckland City. Every player wants to compete in tournaments like this, so hopefully we can build on that experience and make it back here again – except with a triumphant outcome next time.”