Al Duhail won the Qatar Stars League last season
The Red Knights are set to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™
Manager Sabri Lamouchi talks about his side’s goals for the tournament
Qatar Stars League champions Al Duhail are set to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™ where they will rub shoulders with continental champions from all around the planet.
The Red Knights experienced a dip in results and performance this season, prompting the club’s management to appoint Sabri Lamouchi as head coach back in October. The Frenchman of Tunisian decent has been working hard to get the club back on track since then.
FIFA.com spoke with Lamouchi, who expressed his excitement about the forthcoming global showpiece. "It’s a great opportunity, even if I wasn’t at the helm of the team that won the league title," he said. "Credit goes to the coach who was here before me. The tournament will give my players a chance to showcase their skills at a higher level."
Lamouchi sounded a cautious note, clearly in an attempt not to give the fans false hope. "I’m here because the team had some issues last year and the club’s management wanted to introduce some changes," he said. "Our goal is to be more competitive and be the best representative of Qatar and the Qatari league.
"We must be realistic about our goals and acknowledge the fact that we are taking part in this tournament because Qatar is the host country and that we won the league last year," he said. "Winning the title isn’t my aim. We’ll be taking things one game at a time. We’re lucky to be playing at this level. It is a big challenge and we mustn’t be overly optimistic."
In their opening match, Al Duhail take on Auckland City, the club making a record-breaking ninth appearance at the tournament. "We’ll see how it goes," said Lamouchi. "I arrived here two months ago when we were having some problems. I’m not a magician and I don’t want to delude our fans. I can only promise that my technical team and I will do our best - but it won’t be easy.
"We haven’t recruited any new players, foreign or local, and we only have two foreign players despite the fact that our squad can have up to seven," he said. "We have seven games in January and will make use of them to prepare for the tournament. Our preparation begins by winning our league matches and getting more organised in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises in our opener against Auckland City."
Having first played in Qatar 15 years ago, Lamouchi is no stranger to the country. When asked his opinion of the nation that will play host to several massive football tournaments, most notably the FIFA Club World Cup and the FIFA World Cup™, he said: "I came to Qatar as a player in 2006, then as a coach in 2015 and now I’m back. The country has changed a lot in terms of facilities, the infrastructure, the roads and the airport.
"Other things have improved such as the stadiums that are being built," he said. "Clubs are now more professional, and the league has become more competitive. Moreover, Qatar have recently won the AFC Asian Cup.
"I'm very excited that the World Cup is coming to Qatar," he added. "No one thought the World Cup would be organised here one day but preparations are on the right track. Transportation is much better than it was 15 years ago, and life in Qatar has become more comfortable.
"The country is developing fast, so I look forward to seeing the World Cup being held for the first time in a Muslim country and in the Middle East. I believe it’ll be a great success."
After several cancellations last year due to Covid-19, FIFA tournaments are scheduled to resume this year, beginning with the FIFA Club World Cup. "It’s a positive sign that the FIFA competitions will be back, beginning with the Club World Cup," said Lamouchi. "2020 was a difficult year for everyone, not only in football. When competitions like these resume, we are tempted to think the worst is over, but we have to remain wary of the virus."
Asked about that difficult year and his ambitions for 2021, Lamouchi said: "I wish everyone good health. After a year like 2020, we wonder when life will return back to normal and when we’ll be able to travel and take care of our families. Besides my personal goals, that is my wish for the new year."