GCC Championship semi-final: Time for Baniyas loyal Salem Al Orafi to shine
ABU DHABI // With his team one match away from the Gulf Clubs Championship, interim Baniyas manager Salem Al Orafi has a chance to state his case for a full-time role next season.
Baniyas are 1-0 down against Najran of Saudi Arabia heading into tonight’s second leg in Abu Dhabi. It will be the biggest test of the 45-year-old Emirati’s current spell in charge of the Baniyas first team.
Tonight’s game is Al Orafi’s fourth since Jozef Chovanec was moved from head coach to a technical consultant position. He has yet to win a match inside 90 minutes.
Al Orafi led Baniyas to the last-four stage of the GCC with a penalty-shoot-out victory over defending champions Al Muharraq of Bahrain.
His next game was a 2-2 draw with Al Dhafra in the Pro League, before a 1-0 away defeat to Najran.
“If we want to progress in this competition, there is only one way and that is to win this game,” Al Orafi said.
“Our first meeting with Najran was a close one, and hopefully we can turn that result around using the home advantage.”
Al Orafi was handed a similar caretaker job at the beginning of last season before the club appointed Gabriel Calderon, the Argentine, after they parted ways with the Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira.
“It is the decision of the club management to appoint me for the remainder of the season with the hope a change may bring some good results,” Al Orafi said.
“For me, it is a familiar position, because I have been in the club long enough, both as a player and coach and know all the players more than anyone else.”
Al Orafi has been a member of Baniyas since 1982, one year after the club was established. As captain, he led them to a President’s Cup triumph over Al Nasr in 1992.
He quit as a player in 1996 and started coaching the youth team, became an assistant coach and later was appointed the technical director of the club.
“We are all working for the betterment and the success of the club, and as such, there is a very good understanding among the technical staff and the players,” Al Orafi said.
“What’s important at this point is for everyone to focus on this game against Najran. A win for the team would mean win for everyone.
“Our first objective would be to wipe out the deficit in this two-leg format of the competition.
“We have done pretty well this season, yet we haven’t had success in terms of a title. The Gulf Clubs Championship provides us that opportunity. The players are naturally motivated to win a trophy and end the season on a high.”
Apart from Mohammed Jaber, the defender who is serving a one-match ban for two yellow cards, Al Orafi has a full squad at his disposal.
“Our preparations have gone well and we will have the best available line-up for this game,” he said.
“The players are aware of what we need to do. For them, to play in a final will be enough motivation. They are also very confident and fully focused, because this is the most important game for Baniyas.”
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE