TAISEER AL JASSAM DREAMING OF AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SUCCESS
Tashkent: Taiseer Al Jassam has spoken of his dream to win the AFC Champions League with Al Ahli ahead of the Saudi Arabian side’s clash with Bunyodkor on Monday.
The Saudi Arabian side currently lead the way in Group C and will guarantee their progression to the last 16 should they deal the hosts a fifth successive defeat and maintain what has been an impressive start to their continental campaign.
The Jeddah-based side began the tournament with back-to-back wins over Bunyodkor and Zobahan before playing out successive draws with 2016 runners-up Al Ain to leave them in a strong position with two group stage games remaining.
“Yes, we have started well,” said Al Ahli captain Al Jassam. “All the players and staff have a strong will and a dream to bring the cup back to our club.
“I think we are capable of doing it as we have good players and we are passing through a good phase just now.”
Al Jassam, 32, made his debut for Al Ahli in 2004 and has experienced the highs and lows in the AFC Champions League over the years.
In 2012 the midfielder was part of the side that reached a first-ever final of the competition, only to suffer the heartbreak of a 3-0 defeat to Ulsan Hyundai in Korea Republic and miss out on the continental title.
“The set-up [of the tournament] now is completely different,” added Al Jassam. "Before teams from the West could play teams from the East after the first knockout round and that is not the case now as we can only play sides from the East in the final.
"Previously there was only one leg in the final, it wasn’t home and away, so we played that game in our opponents’ home, which put extra pressure on us and we also had some players missing.”
Since the final defeat in 2012, Al Ahli have failed to scale the same heights, with a quarter-final appearance the following year the best they have managed.
The Saudi team reached the last 16 in 2015 but last year exited at the group stage, although an unbeaten start to this year’s campaign – including salvaging a 2-2 draw with Al Ain on Matchday Four following a late Omar Al Soma equaliser – leaves Al Jassam confident that the class of 2017 can go on to achieve what those before them have fallen just short of.