DOHA, January 9, 2018 – It was evening, rather late at that, but the sun was still shinning, ‘yellow’. All this at the plush Four Seasons Hotel in Al Corniche, the sea-kissed picturesque boulevard of the capital city. After all, a legendary footballer, who would usually be seeing donning the Oranje jersey or more recently the red and black stripes, was busy displaying the new colours.
That’s right, Wesley Sneijder was busy displaying the Al-Gharafa club jersey. The Qatar Stars League (QSL) club, which the Dutchman joined earlier this week.
“We are happy to have this great player to appear for us. He is a famous name,” said an elated Mahmood Al Ghazal, the head coach.
“We tried to get him before four years ago but we are happy to get him now. We needed such a player. We have young players. He will be the captain of the team,” he added. And Wesley, who shared the same sentiment, didn’t fall short of displaying it in words and gestures. “I’ve received a very warm welcome in Qatar. I am happy I chose Al-Gharafa as my new club. Frankly speaking I can’t wait to get started,” he said at ‘his unveiling’ ceremony, in the midst of a bevy of media persons.
What’s more, the 33-year old was rather keen on getting started. “It’s on the team coach to see if I play on Friday. It’s not my decision, it’s the coach’s decision. I want to start as soon as possible,” said the Dutchman, who has been signed on an 18-month contract by the Al-Gharafa, after spending a year with French Ligue 1 club, OGC Nice.
But, why Al-Gharafa?
“To be honest my choice is to play football. Al-Gharafa believe in me. They still feel I am a great player and they think I can do great here,” said Wesley.
“The entire process went very fast. I had a couple of days to think about it. I spoke to some people. I wanted to play football. People here wanted me to play in Qatar. There was speculation that I may go to China or the US but here I am.”
Wesley Sneijder even put to rest the speculation surrounding his immediate decision when he said, “I didn’t get to speak with Xavi (Al Sadd captain). I know he is here; for sure, I will meet him. He is a great player. He is a gentleman.” But said, “Yes, I have a friend here. He has played here for 10 years. I asked him for information. I have a fair bit of information about the league. I know the league is competitive. I hope I can play my part in helping the younger players.”
Later, Wesley revealed the name of his good friend to be QSL player Anouar Diba. Diba, the Al Kharaitiyat midfielder, interestingly shares another common ground with the Dutchman – they both were born in Utrecht.
Wesley Sneijder is the second high-profile signing by Al-Gharafa, which had signed Turkish coach Bülent Uygun in December, last year.
Al-Gharafa, who are placed seventh on the QSL leaderboard, travel to Al Ahli for their 12th-round match on Friday. (Qatar Sports Press Committee)