The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Bahrain champions Al Najma Club have further bolstered their line-up for the 24th Asian Men’s Club League Handball Championship, which is scheduled to begin tomorrow in Hyderabad, India.
The Bahrainis have signed French star Bakary Diallo and Bahrain Club player Ahmed Jalal for the continental competition. Najma are fresh from winning the title in the 38th Gulf Clubs Men’s Handball Championship earlier this month, and are now looking to add to their national and regional successes this season with an Asian title.
Najma already feature brothers Olivier Nyokas and Alix Kevynn Nyokas, and they have now strengthened their French connection with the addition of Diallo. The Nyokas pair were instrumental in their Gulf triumph, and their focus is now set on the bigger test.
Along with Jalal, the team’s Bahraini contingent includes many of the Kingdom’s top players, including long-time national team skipper Hussain Al Sayyad, star goalkeeper Mohammed Abdulhussain, and the supremely talented Ali Eid, Hassan Shehab, Bilal Basham, Mahdi Saad, Komail Mahfoodh , Mohammed Habib Naser and Mohammed Mirza, among others.
The Asian clubs league championship is scheduled to continue until June 30. Najma has been drawn in Group B along with Al Kuwait of Kuwait, Mes Kerman of Iran and Al Wakra of Qatar.
Al Safa of Saudi Arabia were also originally set to compete, but they have withdrawn. Group A consists of another four teams, including Al Noor of Saudi, Al Qadsia of Kuwait, Al Arabi of Qatar and T Sports Club of hosts India.
Following a revision of the tournament’s schedule, Group A matches get action underway tomorrow. Najma first face off with Mes Kerman on Thursday before taking on Kuwait on Saturday. They then play their final group game against Wakra on Monday next week.
The top two teams from both groups move on to the semi-finals on June 29, while the next two play in the consolation round for their final classification. The concluding placement fixtures as well as the bronze and gold medal games are scheduled to be played on June 30.
Najma head into the tournament having won it once in the past, in the 2017 edition which was also held in Hyderabad. They also claimed the silver medals in 2015 and the bronze in 2001. In the previous edition of the competition last year, Najma placed fourth after losing in the bronze medal game to Arabi by a single goal.
Aside from being an Asian championship, the competition also acts as a qualifying event for the International Handball Federation (IHF) Men’s Super Globe. Only the champions will book a ticket to the event, which is contested between champion clubs from continental confederations. Najma participated just once in the 2018 edition. This year’s Men’s Super Globe is scheduled for October in Saudi Arabia.