Manama will clash with arch-rivals, Al Ahli tonight in a hotly-anticipated Super Cup match at the Zain Basketball Arena with officials from both teams saying that their preparation for the game has been far from ideal.
The Super Cup is an annual fixture, pitting last season’s champions of the Zain Bahrain Basketball League against the winners of the Khalifa Bin Salman Cup. Manama won the league last season while Al Ahli triumphed in the season-ending Khalifa Bin Salman Cup.
“It’s a huge game and Al Ahli are a very good team but our preparation has been less than ideal,” Manama’s head of basketball, Mohamed Kazerooni told the GDN. “The team has only been able to train together for just the past twenty days because six of our players were playing for the national team.”
Meanwhile, Al Ahli have been experiencing problems of their own, with key players unable to train because of injuries.
“Some of our most important players have had to sit out training and practice because of injuries,” Al Ahli head coach, Aqeel Milad told the GDN. “Maitham Jameel, who captains the national team also, has only just begun to train again after recovering from an injury. Things like these tend to dent a team’s chances of success.”
Manama have also had to grapple with some personnel changes, with Mohammed Hussain, who captained the side last season, leaving for Al Najma.
“Hassan Nowrooz is our new captain,” Kazerooni said. “We were sad to see Hussain leave, but we’ve also received a boost because Ahmed Hassan has joined us after leaving Al Ahli.”
The two teams also have new American recruits, with former NBA star, 6’5” shooting guard Jordan Crawford signing up with Manama and 6’8” power forward, Davon Jefferson, who has played for various clubs around the world, hooking up with Al Ahli. This is the first experience of Bahraini domestic basketball competitions for both men.
“Jordan will bring his top-level game to the court in this match and it will be an exciting experience for local fans to see a former NBA player playing for Manama,” Kazerooni said.
Milad said he expected Jefferson’s presence on court to provide a boost to the local Al Ahli players.
“He’s still only settling in because he has only recently arrived in Bahrain,” he added. “But we are sure that he will have a big impact on not just this game, but others to follow as well.”
Still, Milad was guarded in his assessment about his team’s chances of a win.
“I’d say 50-50,” he said. “Those injuries really set us back.”
Kazerooni was also careful not to over-estimate his team’s prospects.
“We’ll try our best, of course,” he said. “But it’s going to be a tough game.”
The match is scheduled for a 7pm start.