Tuesday, September 29, 2015


JDT Face Tough Qadsia Challenge In Kuwait

It seems ages ago that I travelled to Malaysia to catch Johor Darul Tazim take on East Bengal in the AFC Cup. In fact it was February, seven months back. JDT defeated the Indian side 4-1 with goals from Nazrin Nawi, Safiq Rahim, Safee Sali and Chanthuru Suppirah in front of 12,000 plus fans at the Larkin Stadium. It was the first game of a journey that has seen the Malaysian side travel to India, Hong Kong, Singapore and Hong Kong again, a journey that sees them playing in the semi finals of the AFC Cup for the first time in their history.

Qadsia, yellow, in action against Kuwait SC in Premier League 2014/25
Their opponents are Kuwaiti side Qadsia and it is probably fair to say they are little known outside of the Middle East. In Kuwait they are probably the biggest side in the country with almost everyone you speak to saying they support the team in yellow. At the tail end of the 2014/2015 season they were still in with a shout of lifting the Kuwait Premier League and they were playing Al Arabi, another contender in a three horse race that also featured Kuwait SC. An estimated 25,000 filled Arabi's stadium in Mansouriya, comfortably the largest crowd of the season. The game ended 0-0 and with it Qadsia's title ambitions.

Qadsia have a proud tradition in the AFC Cup, reaching their first final in 2010 when they lost to Al Ittihad (Syria) on penalties at the Jabar International Stadium in Kuwait, a game watched by more than 58,000 fans at a stadium that has never been used since.

The following two seasons saw Qadsia reach the Group of 16, each time failing to get the better of their arch nemisis Kuwait SC after penalty shoot outs but in 2013 they reached the final one more time where they met...yep, you guessed it Kuwait SC. Needless to say they lost, 2-0, but they were getting closer to their holy grail and in 2014 they defeated Iraqi side on penalties to lift the trophy for the first time. It was a run that had seen them travel to Indonesia to play Persipura Jayapura, some trek that from the Middle East, and having won the first leg at home 4-2 there was a feeling the Black Pearls had enough to get the job done on their home patch, especially after they had convincingly brushed aside Kuwait SC in the previous round (2-3, 6-1).

Qadsia however made the long journey look simple, crushing Persipura 6-0 on their own patch and setting up an all Middle East final. Again. Since the competition started in 2004 Middle Eastern sides have come to look upon it as their own piece of silverware with Kuwaiti clubs lifting it four times, Jordan sides three times, Syria and Bahrain once each. The only break in the domination came in 2011 when Uzbekistan side FC Nasaf defeated Kuwait SC in the final.

With Kuwait SC taking on FC Istiklol in the other semi final the AFC Cup could well be ending up in the Middle East again.

Domestically the 2014/2015 season wont go down in the annals as one of Qadsia's best. They faded towards the end of the Premier League season, a 1-0 loss at home to perennial rivals Kuwait SC was soon followed by the disappointing draw against Al Arabi and finishing a disappointing fourth, 10 points off the leaders Kuwait SC.

The 2015/2016 Premier League season has yet to begin. However Qadsia are not going into the game against JDT totally unprepared. They have already overcome Syrian's Al Jaish 3-2 in the quarter final tie of the AFC Cup and while they dominated the first leg, played at Kuwait SC stadium, and could have won by a bigger margin than 3-0, they struggled in the second leg, ostensibly an Al Jaish home game but played at the same venue, and even managed to miss a penalty.

That inconsistency has also been evident in the Federation Cup. They opened their campaign with rusty, if gritty, 2-2 draw against Al Yarmouk, forced to come behind twice against the unfancied side.

They followed that by defeating Al Fahaheel 4-1 before thrashing Al Tadamun 6-0. The goal gluts though came against traditionally weak sides but with so many goals coming in the latter stages of the games JDT need be under no illusions as to the fitness of the Qadsia squad. A 0-0 draw against AL Arabi last night need be of no significance ahead of tonight's tie as Qadsia have been treating the Federation Cup as a squad competition, rotating players at will subject to the other, more important fixtures.

Last week for example they came up against Kuwait SC one more time in the Super Cup with Kuwait SC winning comfortably 3-1.

It is fair to say then Qadsia have yet to get into their stride. The losses against Al Jaish and Kuwait SC in the more important games suggest they are a team that can be got at but JDT should not underestimate the fitness levels of their opponents who are of course used to playing in the heat of the gulf.

One player JDT should be already aware of is Bader Al Mutawa. He wears the 17 shirt and so do legions of Qadsia fans in recognition of the Kuwaiti international who has been with the club since 2012 save a couple of spells overseas in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.  Back in 2012 he also had trials with Nottingham Forest but was unable to secure the necessary paperwork. Perhaps lacking the pace of a few years ago, Mutawa strikes me as being a Teddy Sheringham type player, intelligent, quick thinking.

For goals, Qadsia will be looking to Congolese striker Doris Fuakumputu, signed from Saudi side Al Fateh where he averaged nearly a goal every other game over a five year period. He too is the wrong side of 30 and when I saw him play against Al Yarmouk and Al Jaish he did perhaps look a bit off the pace.

Tonight's game is crucial for JDT. To take a point back to their Larkin Stadium would be a magnificent achievement and despite Qadsias claims to a large support they frequently play in front of crowds around 3 or 4,000. Playing in front of a hostile JDT crowd could well be a nerve wracking experience for many. JDT also have the experience of a long campaign behind them. They are used to playing with each other and know each others strengths and weaknesses while Qadsia are still a work in progress. However the absence of striker Luciamo Figuero after he was red carded against South China could be a big miss.

It promises to be an intriguing game this evening and a point for JDT would be a monumental achievement as well as the first step to an AFC Cup Final in a season when Malaysian football
has embarrassed so many

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