(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Star defender Abdelkarim Hassan has admitted Qatari teams are under additional pressure to win competitions because the country is hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Hassan, who is on loan from Al Sadd at Qatar-owned Belgian top flight team KAS Eupen, was speaking to journalists at a press conference on the sidelines of the team's winter training camp at Aspire Academy.
'As Qatari players, we experience pressure during major tournaments because there is an expectation on us to achieve good results, Hassan said.
'Especially since we'll soon be representing Qatar at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. The pressure will always be there. All we can do is give our all in order to achieve the best possible result we can, and hope for the best, he added.
Hassan however stressed that Qatar gives plenty of opportunities to players to develop their skills thus helping them cope with fans' expectations.
'Thankfully, organisations like Aspire Academy support our development by, for example, giving us opportunities to join and train with international clubs like KAS Eupen. Our Olympic football team is currently performing really well at the AFC U-23 championship and I wish them the best of luck in their match against China on Monday.
Speaking about his experience at KAS Eupen, Abdulkarim said: 'It's definitely a different set up to that which we had at Al Sadd SC. But it'll be a good learning experience that'll help improve my game in the future, and which in turn will benefit the national team. I like challenges, and I'm ready to fight for my dreams.
KAS Eupen coach Claude Makelele stressed that staying positive in the wake of challenges was key to a team's success.
Under his supervision, the team has enjoyed a recent run of positive results but is battling hard to avoid relegation. He praised 23-year-old Japanese striker Yuta Toyokawa who transferred from Leeds United to KAS Eupen on loan.
'He is a good player, always willing to listen and learn. I expect good things from him. Playing in the Belgian Pro League will be excellent experience for him against bigger, more experienced players. With a squad of 24 players, including Qatari international Abdulkarim Hassan, KAS Eupen features a number of Aspire Academy graduates including Abdullah Ali Saei and Ahmed Homam Elamin. Their fellow Qatari teammates at the club Akram Afif, Abdulrasheed Ibrahim, Youssef Ayman Farhat and Assim Madibo, are currently on international duty with Qatar's U-23 team at the U-23 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Championships in China.
Speaking about the performance of his Qatari players, Makelele added: 'They've been doing really well. There's still more to be done to help them grow as players and play their part in the Qatar national football team. But I think their experience with KAS Eupen will help them develop the right outlook and attitude.
Meanwhile Belgian goalkeeper, Hendrik Van Combrugge, who returns to Aspire Academy this year for the fifth time, said: 'One of the key benefits of this winter training camp is that it gives us time to recover mentally and physically by taking some time out from Belgium and our daily routine.
'The time we spend here is perfect for us as players as we benefit from sessions with the coaches where we really get to have some quality time with them. 'Since we arrived, we've had training sessions two or three times each day.
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