19 December, 2022
25 May, 2023
16 Wael Arakji (RIY)
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Arakji on Al Riyadi-Beirut Club clash in WASL Semis: 'Whoever will fight more will win'

BEIRUT (Lebanon) - It will all boil down to who wants it more.

Wael Arakji offered as much now that he and Al Riyadi brace for a 'very tough' battle ahead against familiar foes Beirut Club in the WASL-West Asia League Semi-Finals starting on Wednesday at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex.

"It's gonna be a very tough series. Beirut are a great team with great management, they have a lot of great players -- same for us. It's gonna be a pretty tough battle for both teams," said the multi-titled floor general.

"Whoever will fight more will win this series," he added.

"We can't wait for the series to start."

Arakji said so moments after helping Al Riyadi to a dominant 97-62 conquest of Orthodox Amman in the do-or-die Game 3 of their Qualification to Semi-Finals series last week, setting up the best-of-3 clash with Beirut Club.

That win saw the reigning FIBA Asia Cup MVP pour 23 points for his best game of the Final Phase to date, forming a fiery tandem with streaky shooter Kevin Murphy (28 points) in powering the early breakaway to win the match decisively.


Arakji could only heave a sigh of relief after the game.

The 28-year-old lamented how Al Riyadi haven't been themselves in recent weeks, and so being able to score a victory as convincing as they did against the Jordanian side should be a sign of better things to come, he hopes.

"We've been having a tough two to three weeks for our team. We haven't been performing the way we're supposed to. I believe the only way is up from now on for us," said Arakji, who's averaging 19.0 points in WASL.

"We understand the gravity of the situation for this club. We cannot lose anymore, or we'll be knocked out of WASL," he added. "We're a team that's aiming to win every championship and this is our goal for this year."

It should no longer come as a surprise that Arakji and Co. are always out for the gold. Al Riyadi holds themselves in high regard, for they're the winningest club in the Snips Lebanese Basketball Championship with 16 titles.

It could've actually been 17 last year, but Beirut Club had other plans.

Five years since it got promoted to the LBL, the team got the gold by beating Al Riyadi in Game 7 of the Finals, 79-62, which saw veteran internationalist Gerard Hadidian lead the way with a double-double of 28 points and 13 rebounds.


And, yes, Arakji himself was also among those who helped Beirut get to the top, marking his return to the local league after three years with a championship at the expense of the very same ball club he won his first four titles with.

Now, he's spearheading Al Riyadi's attempt of ascending back up, and there couldn't be any better way to start their revenge tour in a stage as big and as grand as the WASL Semi-Finals -- for the whole region to witness.

"Beirut is a great team. Great club, with great players," said Arakji as he will always have that respect towards his old team, who's one of those to watch out for in WASL after becoming the first to clinch a direct flight to the semis.

"It's gonna be a tough game for both of us. But I am pretty sure we will do whatever it takes for us to win the game -- for us, and for our fans," he added. "We're waiting for our fans to support us in the next round."