AFC Cup: Historical fight in the old city of Erbil

A tough task is waiting for Chonburi FC this Tuesday on their way to possible AFC Cup final, facing current Iraqi champion Erbil SC in the semis of the AFC Cup. Though no injuries to report, talisman striker Cunha will have to sit out.

Chonburi had little time to rest after their historic win over Al-Shorta which have sent the Thais into the semis for the first time in history. The side had to travel twice across the continent in less than a few days. After returning to Bangkok last Thursday, the Sharks were off to Erbil on Saturday. The Kurdish town counts as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. And who of you is interested in the history of the old Babylon, should probably have been there once. The local club Erbil SC, qualified as a league runner-up in 2011 for the AFC cup and at the end of the just finished domestic season, the club was able to lift the championship trophy for a fourth time in the history of the club.

After Erbil had to exit the tournament at quarter-final stage in 2009 and semi-final in 2011 - both times against Kuwait SC - now of course the aim is the final. The knock-out stage could be reached with no defeat this year and after the Uzbek representative Neftchi Farg'ona, Kelantan FA from Malaysia was swept aside by 6-2 on total.

However, founded in 1968, recent success came only since 2003 with president Dr. Abdullah Majid Dazabi starting to bankrolling the club. Several class players could get brought under contract. Not less than seven players received a call up by national team coach Zico, for the upcoming friendlies in October. But all are allowed to dismiss the camp to help Erbil to overcome Chonburi. Latter in particular should pay attention to Amjad Radhi who scored five goals in the running competition. Captain Hawar Mulla Mohammed might be the most experienced player in the ranks of the host. During his career he made appearances in the UEFA and AFC Champions League with several clubs like Famagusta and Zob Ahan (Iran).

Though exceptionally the Sharks for their part have no problems with injuries, however, will have to be without striker Tiago Cunha. With his hat-trick last week against Al-Shorta he has decisively contributed for getting on. He is absent after receiving his second yellow because of taking off his shirt, while celebrating a goal in the quarter-finals.

Of course Witthaya Laohakul is aware of that his players are affected by the long trip. But clears away any and every later excuse. "We had a long trip to get here and that naturally has affected the players,” said the Chonburi boss. “Despite the difficulties that we have had, we will go into the game against Erbil with only one target which is to win the match.”  He goes on in telling that the opponent has been well studied and his side is aware of the good defensive and offensive of Erbil.

Kick-off at the Franso Hariri stadium, which can hold up to 40.00 spectators, is about 21:00 Thai time. True Sport 3 is covering the game live and if you don't watch alone at home, Chonburi's "Sharks cafe" welcomes you.

For those of you who would like to know more on Erbil SC and football in Iraq, we recommend you the interview with Hassanin Mubarak, a Iraqi sports journalist, on the English speaking fan web page of Chonburi FC.
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