Al Ahli and Al Gharafa will square off in the opening match as the prestigious Amir Cup basketball tournament gets underway at Al Gharafa Sports Club today.
As many as nine teams are competing for the coveted title that will be decided after the June 15 final. The participating sides have been divided into two groups, which will see top two sides advancing to the semi-finals after the round-robin stage.
The semi-finals will be played on June 12 after the group stage that will conclude on June 10. Al Gharafa Sports Club will host all matches of the tournament.
Al Sadd, who defeated Al Arabi in last year’s final, will defend their title, and will face Al Ahli, Al Gharafa, Al Khor and Al Shamal in Group 1.
The Group 2 includes newly-crowned Qatar Basketball League champions Al Rayyan along with Al Arabi, Al Wakrah and Qatar Sports Club.
The opening day will see Group 1 teams in action as Al Shamal and Al Khor will face off in today’s other match.
The Group 2 teams will begin their campaign tomorrow with Al Rayyan set to meet Al Wakrah, before Qatar SC and Al Arabi clash in the day’s second match.
Al Sadd will open their title defence against Al Khor on June 2. They are expected to face stiff competition in their bid to retain the title with several teams in contention for the trophy.
Al Rayyan, particularly are in good form and they will go in the tournament brimming with confidence having clinched the League trophy earlier this week. After his team’s triumph, Al Rayyan coach Koufos Stergios expressed his confidence, saying his ranks are in good rhythm and they have the potential to lift the Amir Cup.
Al Shamal, who secured the runners-up spot in the League, have also been impressive this season.
The Amir Cup was initiated in the 1999-2000 season with Al Rayyan emerging as champions of the inaugural edition. Al Rayyan remained the most successful side in the competition since then, winning the crown nine times from a record 14 appearances in the finals.
Al Gharafa have won the tournament on five occasions while Al Sadd will start the event as three-time champions. Al Arabi, Qatar SC and El Jaish have two Amir Cup titles apiece.