Al Shorta have signed two foreign players in an attempt to bolster their squad and improve their chances of clinching a third league title in six seasons.
The two new boys are Ghanaian attacking midfielder Asiedu Attobrah, who starred for Ghana in their 2014 CHAN campaign and their 2015 U-20 World Cup journey, and Jefferson Araújo, a Brazilian striker coming from the Brazilian lower divisions. Both players have played for Belgian Pro League clubs in the past and are set to be a huge boost to the squad.
The three outgoings are striker Ayman Hussein, who was supposed to join Al Ahli in Qatar but shocked everyone at Al Shorta by moving to Iraqi Premier League rivals Al Naft instead, Ahmed Ayad, a two-time league champion with Al Shorta who has gone on loan to Al Quwa Al Jawiya for the rest of the season to gain more game time, and Abdul-Qadir Tariq, who has gone on loan to Al Talaba for the same reason.
Al Shorta have appointed experienced Brazilian coach Marcos Paquetá to lead the team next season, and have signed twelve players to improve the squad for the upcoming campaign.
Marcos has won multiple honours in his career as a coach, including two Youth World Cups with Brazil, a treble in Saudi Arabia and two consecutive league titles in Qatar. He also coached Saudi Arabia through their 2006 World Cup campaign.
The players signed include some of the league's best, such as last season's Golden Boot winner Alaa Abdul-Zahra who returns to the club after two years at Al Zawraa, and Ayman Hussein who is widely considered to be the 'new Younis Mahmoud' after almost dragging his former club Al Naft to the league title last year.
Iraq's first choice right-back Alaa Mhawi joins from rivals Al Zawraa while Ali Faez (season-long loan) and Salam Shakir both return to their former club, coming from Çaykur Rizespor and Al Ittihad Kalba respectively (although Salam Shakir has since suffered a long-term injury, leading to the club signing centre-back Karrar Mohammed from Al Zawraa too). Al Naft defender Hussam Kadhim is also welcomed, as is winger Ammar Abdul-Hussein who returns to the club he won the league with in the 2013-14 season.
Ghanaian midfielder Akwetey Mensah, formerly of Al Minaa and Al Quwa Al Jawiya where he won the Iraqi FA Cup, has signed for the club and is the only foreign player in the squad. Goalkeeper Neriman Khedher, midfielder Mohammed Mohsen and striker Aqeel Khairi complete the twelve new players, while promising young striker Mohanad Ali has returned to the club after a loan spell at Al Kahrabaa last season. Al Shorta also signed Omar Jabbar and Sattar Yaseen, but both of them are already no longer at the club - Jabbar was released after he played a friendly game for former club Karbalaa without Al Shorta's permission while Yaseen was released on request of the manager after poor performances in training.
With all the new signings, it's inevitable that the club would have to say goodbye to some of last season's contingent. Club top scorer Marwan Hussein has signed for Sepahan of Iran, while defender Essam Yassin has joined Al Naft, midfielder Hatem Zidan has moved to Naft Al Wasat, forward Karrar Hameed and goalkeeper Mohammed Abbas have both gone on loan to Al Kahrabaa, winger Jawad Kadhim has joined Al Quwa Al Jawiya, forward Ahmed Salam has transferred to Al Hudod, Kurdish players Sarhang Muhsin, Kosrat Baez and Miran Khesro have all returned to their homeland in Erbil and striker Jassim Mohammed has gone to rivals Al Talaba. Young Ali Yousif has also returned to Al Kahrabaa after the end of his loan move, while our former manager Nadhum Shaker has been appointed by fellow Iraqi Premier League club Al Najaf.
Al Shorta will use Al Shaab Stadium again for their home games in the 2017-18 season, following a deal with the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The 250 million Iraqi dinar deal constructed by new president Ayad Bunyan has come as a sigh of relief to Al Shorta fans as there were previous reports that suggested Al Shorta would have to use the small Al Kadhimiya Stadium for their home games in the upcoming campaign.
Ayad Bunyan also promised Al Shorta fans that work on the construction of Al Shorta Sports City would continue as soon as possible; the club has been without a stadium for almost four years.
At long last, the great Ayad Bunyan is back at Al Shorta.
Bunyan's first spell as club president was from 2012 to 2014, when he helped transform the club into the biggest and most powerful club in the country, storming to both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 league titles just a couple of years after the club was almost relegated.
Al Shorta were also clear favourites for the 2014-15 title, but Iraqi football was shocked when a vote of no confidence in late 2014 saw Ayad Bunyan ousted from the club, replaced by former Al Shorta captain Riyadh Abdul-Abbas.
The move smelt of corruption and indeed Riyadh was removed from his position as president midway through the 2015-16 season after the previous elections were voided. Al Shorta's results took a huge hit under Riyadh's reign with the club struggling to seventh place that season.
Ayad Abdul-Rahman took over as interim president and was appointed permanently in May 2016; his great work saw Al Shorta recover and put up a title challenge in the 2016-17 season, but nonetheless fans still dreamed of Ayad Bunyan returning one day.
And the dream has finally come true as the Minister of Interior called for new elections which Ayad Bunyan ran for and won, sparking scenes of jubilant celebration among the band of Al Shorta fans that were present. Let's hope that Bunyan can help bring the club back to where they deserve to be: at the very top of Iraqi football. Welcome back, Ayad!
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