Zahra El Mina, from Tripoli, is one of the first teams in Lebanon to be formed, and that was in the year 1950. The team came back to the first division in 2008, and was competing for the championship almost every season since then, but it wasn’t until last year that Zahra won the title. Coach Simon Atallah needs no introduction when it comes to Zahra. He joined us in a brief interview in which we discussed the following:
Q: When did the team start preparations, and how many training sessions per week is the team performing?
A: We started training on the 15th of October. We are having six training sessions per week. At first we started with intense physical preparations, excluding Saturdays where we were doing muscle-relaxing exercises such as swimming so that our players could enter the following week of training with comfort.
Q: Being the only team with a full time assistant Ph.D. (cand) Leon Gaitanakis who is performing statistics with you in games, and training sessions. How has this helped in improving your team’s performance?
A: Leon was previously with Olympiakos, and he also gives seminars. We took the decision of having someone professional to do statistics for our team after participating in the Arab Championship and the Asian Championship in the Philippines. Statistics were being done whenever we had training sessions or games. We have definitely gotten to a point where, if you have not analyzed your opponent before a game, it is the same as entering the game like a blind person. Analysis is like the sight of vision; You see through it and you prepare your upcoming game according to it. We rely on statistics to help us analyze our team, and find our weak points in every skill so we could work on fixing them.
Q: What are the team’s goals this year in the championship?
A: We aim at nothing less than holding on to the title.
Q: Which team do you consider to be your hardest opponent?
A: All the teams are good, and we should prepare ourselves to face them by studying them. All the teams are strong with three foreign players. Of course, the teams who have been arriving the most to the Final 4 stage, such as Anwar, Bouchrieh, and Tannourine, are the ones that are most likely to win the championship. However, we will be focusing on winning every game against any team.
Q: What are the advantages that your team has over its rivals?
A: Our team spirit. I am comforted, and happy with the atmosphere in our team. The players love each other, and this helps the team to be in harmony. We thank God that we found three foreign players who are of a very good level. Our Lebanese players are well known, and Arthur will be joining us later on during the season. He is currently training in the Brazilian first division league. Technically, we have the best reception, and the best attack among all teams.
Q: What are the latest results that your team has achieved from friendly games?
A: Our game results were:
Elias Georges Kharma’s Memorial Cup:
Kalamoun 0-3 Zahra
Dalhoun’s 10th Sportive Festival:
Dalhoun 1-3 Zahra
Sami Abou Jaoude’s Memorial Tournament:
Group Stage: Won three games, 3-0 against Sacre Coeur and Halat, 3-2 against Bouchrieh.
Semi Final: Dalhoun 1-3 Zahra
Final: Anwar 1-3 Zahra
Omar Karameh’s Memorial Cup:
Zahra 3-2 Anwar
Q: Zahra showed us in the previous years that they have the biggest fan presence in their games. What would you like to say to Zahra’s loyal fans?
A: I hope that the team is up to our fans’ expectations, as last year. We hope to be able to hold on to the title which we managed to win last year for the first time in the team’s history. We also hope that our fans remain present in all games as they have been doing.
Q: What are your expectations for your first game this season which will be against Kalamoun?
A: We played a game with Kalamoun not so long ago where we won 3-0. They did a few changes since then. We have information about their team which we have analyzed, and we will go to the game focused. We will play every game this year as if we are playing the Final. To hold on to the title is a tough job, and a big responsibility. We will try to win every single game that we play, and I expect us to do so.
Zahra vs Kalamoun
Date: Tuesday, 12 January 2016
Court: Al Mina Tripoli
Zahra‘s history since 2009:
Photographs taken from: Sports Mania