Gerard Zaragoza works the miracle in Qatar

The Shabab Al Ahli of Gerard Saragossa will be in the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League. Those from the United Arab Emirates reached the bubble of Qatar – home to the rest of the matches of the clubs in the west – with few qualifying options, but their great results and the disqualification of Al Hilal, who could not complete a call-up of 13 players Due to a wave of infections by Covid-19, they ended up granting them a place in the next round. “We have achieved seven points out of nine, also keeping a clean sheet. I am very happy,” discovers Zaragoza, appointed first coach after the dismissal of Rodolfo Arruabarrena in March.

With the Argentine on the bench, Shabab Al Ahli failed to score in the Champions League. With the Spanish, two victories and a draw that kept them with options until the last day, where they should have measured the current champion of the competition, Al Hilal. However, the growing number of Covid-19 infections in the Saudi expedition prevented Razvan Lucescu from completing the call, which ended in disqualification. “They arrived in Qatar with five infected and the number has been increasing after each game. They have 18 footballers and practically the entire staff on leave, so they could only appear with 11 players, of which three were goalkeepers. We and them referees warm up; they don't. They wanted to play with nine, but the AFC left them out“, says Gerard Zaragoza, who considers that the decision was fair:” This is how it is stated in the regulations. The tournament must continue because all the qualifiers are already dated. “

Living in a bubble

With the classification in his pocket, Shabab Al Ahli, whose squad is the Andalusian striker Pedro Count, vital with a winning goal against Shahr Khodrou, returned to his concentration hotel, which he shares with the rest of the United Arab Emirates representatives. “The clubs are distributed by countries. Each one has a specific area of ​​the hotel and we only leave the rooms to eat. No one can enter or leave here and we are escorted to games, with police in front and behind,” discovers Gerard Zaragoza, who Like everyone who participates in the AFC Champions League, he is tested every four days. “In our team no contagion has been detected. In the competition the virus has only manifested itself in Al Hilal and the Pakhtakor coach,” adds the Catalan coach.

Although he already knows what it is to succeed as an assistant – he was proclaimed champion in Qatar and India – Gerard Zaragoza is experiencing his first great moments as a coach in the elite at Shabab Al Ahli. “Playing and winning games in the Asian Champions League is something that I will always remember,” says the Catalan, whose next opponent, already in the second round, will be Al Ahli of Jeddah, one of the most powerful teams in Saudi Arabia. “All Saudi clubs are difficult. It is one of the strongest leagues in the Middle East. They have Marko Marin, who is a great player, and Omar Al-Somah, a great scorer. But we will have our chances and I think we will win“, sentence.