Meet Al Wahda, one of FC Goa’s opponents in the AFC Champions League
Al Wahda confirmed their place as the fourth and last team in FC Goa’s Group E (West Region) in the 2021 AFC Champions League after beating Al Zawraa 2-1 in their play-off match on Wednesday night. Omar Khribin and Khalil Ibrahim scored in the space of 15 minutes as the UAE club came back from behind to secure a win. With that result, they joined the Gaurs, Al Rayyan SC and Persepolis FC for the group stage of the prestigious competition to be held in Goa from April 14-30. Al Wahda will play Juan Ferrando’s men twice on April 17 and April 29. Here is the lowdown on the Emirati club in terms of history, some key players as well as their head coach.
Home Stadium: Al Nahyan Stadium
The club was formed in 1984 after the merging of Abu Dhabi SC and Al Emirates SC, and are one of the most successful clubs in the Gulf nation. They are part of the Arabian Gulf League, also called the UAE Pro League, and won their first top-flight title in 1998-99. Since then, they have won the league three more times with their last title coming in the 2009-10 season. In the AFC Champions League, Al Wahda have appeared in the group stage on eight occasions. Their best finish came in the 2007 edition when they reached the semi-finals. They also reached the quarter-finals in 2004 and the Round of 16 in their most recent campaign in 2019.
Ismaeil Matar (Midfielder)
Ismaeil Matar is one of Al Wahda’s legends, having spent nearly two decades with the club. After joining the club in 2002 he has largely been with them, barring a brief loan move to Qatari club Al Sadd in 2009. In the ongoing season, he has seven goals and eight assists in 20 appearances and has been one of the few bright sparks for his team. In the AFC Champions League (group stage), the 38-year-old midfielder has made 32 appearances for Al Wahda, with three goals and two assists to his name.
Omar Khribin (Forward)
Omar Khribin joined Al Wahda during the 2021 January transfer window and has been one of their best players since. The 27-year-old forward has six goals and two assists for his team in the ongoing season. No need to mention that he also scored in their play-off win against Al Zawraa. The Syrian forward also has plenty of continental competition experience, having reached the 2017 AFC Champions League final with former club Al Hilal Riyadh. He was the tournament’s top scorer with 10 goals and also won the AFC-Player-of the-Year award.
Khamis Esmaeel (Midfielder)
31-year-old Khamis Esmaeel is an experienced midfielder who is also tasked with assisting Al Wahda’s back four. Esmaeel has had a long and decorated career in the UAE Pro League, having played for the likes of Al Jazira, Shabab Al Ahli and Al Wasl. His only league trophy came during the 2015-16 season with Shabab Al Ahli. Esmaeel joined Al Wahda in January 2020, and has since established himself as a mainstay in the middle of the park. Esmaeel has featured in 16 matches so far this season.
Head coach: Henk ten Cate
The Dutch head coach was appointed in March earlier this year for his second stint. Ten Cate has worked at many top football clubs during his career. He was the assistant to Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona before joining Ajax as their manager. Ten Cate was also the assistant to Avram Grant at English Premier League side Chelsea. He had stints at a number of clubs in Europe before joining Shabab Al Ahli in 2010. Ten Cate was also in charge of Qatari club Umm Salal and China’s Shandong Luneng before leading Al Jazira to the UAE Pro League title in the 2016-2017 season. His huge experience can work wonders for the Emirati club in the upcoming matches.