The East Zone of the Asian Champions League has finally recommenced in Qatar, with Melbourne Victory to join Sydney FC and Perth Glory in the bio-secure bubble in Doha in the coming days.
The rigmarole clubs across Asia have endured just to reach the start line amidst Covid-19 would seem comical if it wasn’t so serious; the A-League clubs themselves were threatened with fines and bans when they considered pulling out.
But as football took precedence again with Perth losing 2-1 to Shanghai Shenhua in the competitions re-opener, Glory Football Operations Manager Terry McFlynn maintains the experience will be positive for the club.
“If it was under non-Covid circumstances and we said to the players ‘were going to Qatar for pre-season, five games against three of the top teams in Asia’, everyone would be jumping out of their skin”, he told Box2Box.
“For these boys to be training in World Cup training venues, playing in World Cup stadiums, (ahead of 2022), it’s going to be an amazing experience for them”.
After initially baulking at the assignment, McFlynn explained the Australian sides were now satisfied with the logistics of playing in Qatar during the pandemic.
The teams are sharing a hotel and only leave for training and games, with hotel staff living there too to minimise the chance of community transmission.
“It’s been a bit of a minefield to pull it all together in the last couple of weeks…
There’s been a lot of collaboration between the three clubs to make sure we had the logistics right.”
“Our doctors are happy with it, we had an independent doctor revise the protocols as well and they also passed off on it.”
The Glory are being led by headline names in Castro, Fornaroli and Kilkenny in Doha, but their 22-man squad includes numerous kids with minimal first-team experience. McFlynn nominated 16-year old midfielder Josh Rawlins, who played 90 minutes against Shanghai, as one to watch.
“He’s got international experience, he went to the under 17’s World Cup with the Joeys, so its another step in his development.”
“All the other young boys deserve the opportunity. The experienced boys will help their development.”