AMMAN — The 15th West Asian Clubs Basketball Championship tips off in Beirut today with two Jordanian teams taking part in the competition that includes the best 10 clubs in the region.
Jordan’s Riyadi-Aramex will play in Group A which includes Iran’s Zob Ahan and Petroshimi, Yemen’s Tilal and Lebanon’s Riyadi. Applied Science University (ASU) will play in Group B along with Lebanon’s Champville and Mutahhed, Iran’s Mahram and Iraq’s Duhok.
Four teams from each group will move to the home-and-away quarter-finals in February, before the best-of-three contest the semis and then the best-of-five finals.
The West Asian qualifiers, organised by the West Asian Basketball Association (WABA), stipulates that the top four teams, provided they represent different countries, qualify to the Asian Basketball Confederation’s (ABC) Champions Cup. Zain were the only Jordanian team to win the Asian title in 2006.
Riyadi’s Secretary General Fadi Sabbah sounded optimistic about his team’s chance at the upcoming league and at the WABA event even though his team’s group included Asian champs Riyadi.
“We have a better line-up and new recruits this year which gives our squad more depth,’’ Sabbah said in an interview with The Jordan Times before leaving to Beirut. “We hope to be competitive and make the best of the upcoming season,’’ he added.
Riyadi plays Lebanon’s Riyadi on Thursday before playing Petroshimi (Friday), Zob Ahan (Saturday) and Tilal (Sunday).
The team hoped to have some friendlies in Beirut, but teams are tied up with the local league. The same was the case with Jordan’s other team at the event, reigning Premier League champions ASU, who were looking to have a training camp in Egypt but now will substitute it with one in Beirut just before Group 2 matches kick of in the Lebanese capital on January 25.
Riyadi’s line-up has some new transfers like former Orthodoxi and six-time champ Zain star Ayman Du’eys, former Orthodoxi point guard Fadi Saqqa (who also played for Zain). They will join Issa Kamel, Ali Jamal and others. The line-up will miss Seif Amer, who is recuperating from surgery and out for the season.
ASU, who were third at the 24th Arab Clubs Basketball Championship last year, have Abdullah Abu Qoura, Islam Abbas, Wisam Sous, Mahmoud Abdeen and Mousa Awadi leading the line-up.
The WABA tourney started in 1998 and Orthodoxi were the only Jordanian team to win the title in 1999. Jazira (currently Riyadi) were runner-up in 1998, Orthodoxi were runner-up in 2001 and 2002, while Arena were runner-up in 2003. In 2006, Fastlink and Riyadi took part as Zain moved to the Champions Cup and took the crown. Zain were unable to compete in the WABA event in 2007 because of a technical dispute with the Jordan Basketball Federation. Instead, league runner-up Riyadi and third place Arena were nominated. Zain and Orthodoxi took part in 2008 as Zain settled for fourth place while Orthodoxi finished fifth. Zain qualified alongside Lebanon’s Riyadi and Iran’s Saba Battery to the Champions Cup where they were eliminated in the quarters.
In 2009, Zain came second and joined Iran’s Mehram and Lebanon’s Riyadi in qualifying to the ABC Champions Cup as Jordan’s Orthodoxi finished sixth.
No Jordanian teams played in 2010. Last year, ASU finished fourth and moved to the ABC Champions Cup where they finished fifth.